NEW YORK — With nearly 50,000 inmates in New York City’s immigration detention system, there is a large and growing demand for more beds, and the city is trying to find ways to keep those beds filled.
Last week, Immigration Reform advocates introduced legislation that would require the state to build more immigration-detention facilities and to provide more community-based services to immigrants, as well as to give more money to counties to expand facilities.
The bill was introduced as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package that would expand prison space, make permanent the right to work and provide a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants already in the U.S.
The legislation was introduced by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-New York, who said his goal was to keep the beds filled and to make the state a more welcoming place for immigrants.
“It’s a difficult balance between the need to provide services that are needed to get people back on their feet and the need for additional capacity to house those people who are here for the last eight years,” he said.
“We are in a race to the bottom.”
Gottfried has been pushing for changes to the federal immigration law since at least 2010.
Last month, he introduced a bill to expand detention beds by 25 percent and would also provide more money for counties to create more detention facilities.
“The people who work in our detention system need a lot of help, and we’re going to be investing in that,” he told ABC News.
Gottfred said he hopes the bill will make it through the Legislature before the end of the year.
The New York Times reported that about two dozen immigrant advocates, advocacy groups and advocacy groups for prisoners have signed onto the new bill.
The push to build additional facilities has gained momentum in recent months.
Last month, the Center for Immigration Studies, an immigration advocacy group, released a report that said more than 100,000 immigrants currently in state prisons are eligible for release, which would increase the need.
In the report, the group said that the federal government had been providing $1.6 billion to states for immigrant detention beds since 2009, and that some states have spent an average of $2.5 million per year on immigrant detention.
The report also noted that states with a significant number of immigrants who have been released have struggled to fill their immigration detention beds, particularly in rural and immigrant-majority counties.
In April, the Department of Homeland Security said the number of people in detention facilities nationwide has been on the rise.
“Over the last decade, federal immigration detention has grown at a rate that is unprecedented,” the department said in a statement.
“The federal government has allocated nearly $8 billion in fiscal year 2020 to detain and hold immigrants, but only a fraction of this has been spent on the nation’s most vulnerable populations.”