Victorville Federal Prison, which was designed to hold 1,400 inmates, is struggling to house an extra 1,000 border detainees who were arrested in stepped-up immigration enforcement efforts.
With immigration detention facilities already at capacity, the Los Angeles Times reported last week that the Victorville prison was not equipped to handle illegal alien detainees. Workers that talked to the Times complained that prison was already short-staffed and the detainees from around the world have different medical and language needs compared to local prisoners.
Republican Rep. Paul Cook (Yucca Valley) wrote to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Prisons in June to request additional training and staffing.
But Democrat Rep. Mark Takano (Riverside) told the Times that the immigration detainees he met when visiting the prison in early July were suffering poor conditions. Prison medical staff interviewed by the Times said 3 chickenpox cases and about 40 scabies cases had been diagnosed since the detainees started arriving.
In his first week in office in January 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that empowered state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of federal immigration officers to the maximum extent permitted by law.
Although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) border services began hiring 5,000 additional Immigration & Customs Agency (ICE) border agents, total arrests declined in 2017. But ICE data reveals that apprehensions have spiked since March 2018, with ICE taking 51,905 migrants into custody in May, about triple the same period in 2017.
Due to a surge over the last few months of asylum seekers coming to the U.S., and shifts in Trump administration policies that have led to more and longer detentions, the number of people in ICE custody nationwide grew 20 percent — from 34,376 in fiscal year 2016, to 41,280 in early May, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
There have been efforts since 2015 to add 512 beds to the 1,458 bed Otay Mesa immigration detention facility near the San Diego border, which has been at full capacity since 2017.
However, the plan is opposed by Democrats.