US to close costly Texas immigration detention center and reroute funds

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will close a costly Texas detention center and reallocate the funds to increase overall detention capacity as the agency ramps up operations to implement new U.S. border restrictions.

In a memo to U.S. lawmakers on Monday, ICE said it would shutter the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, freeing up money to expand detention bed space elsewhere.

Biden, a Democrat seeking another term in Nov. 5 elections, rolled out a policy last week that bars most migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally from claiming asylum. The new asylum ban aims to quickly process migrants for potential deportation, which could strain ICE's detention space.

As of June 6, the agency held around 37,000 people, close to its funded capacity of 41,500, ICE figures show.

The move to close the Texas facility, known as "Dilley," frees up resources for an additional 1,600 beds, ICE said in the memo, which was reviewed by Reuters. ICE confirmed the closure in a related press release.

Dilley was opened in 2014 to house migrant families caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, a contentious practice the Biden administration halted by early 2022.

The center, operated by the private company CoreCivic , held around 1,800 people as of June 6, the bulk of whom were women with no criminal records, ICE records show.

Dilley was one of nine detention centers identified in an internal 2022 memo recommending closing or downsizing centers with high costs or staffing shortages. The memo, reported by Reuters last year, said ICE could save $129 million by closing it.

In the memo to Congress, ICE said Dilley was "the most expensive facility in the national detention network."

ICE also said it was "optimizing" its contracts with charter airlines to potentially increase the number of deportation flights per week.

CoreCivic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Josie Kao)