About 41,000 illegal immigrants are being held in detention amid a new surge across the border – including a wave of Haitian migrants, the Washington Times reported Wednesday.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said he has asked for more bed space for the detainees, arguing holding on to illegal immigrants – rather than catching and releasing them – makes it more likely they can be deported quickly.
According to the Times, the government only contracts for about 34,000 detention beds.
"We must enforce the immigration laws consistent with our priorities," Johnson said in a statement. "Those who attempt to enter our country illegally must know that, consistent with our laws and our values, we must and we will send you back."
As part of the effort, Johnson said deportation flights back to Haiti have resumed in full – after having been largely on hold in the wake of the massive 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.
Haitians who fled that county to South America after the earthquake are now heading north to the United States, arriving at a rate of about 3,000 a month, the Times reported, citing an internal Homeland Security intelligence bulletin that said lax U.S. enforcement is encouraging them to make the trip.
The intelligence analysis said a stronger show of force by U.S. officials vowing to deport Haitians could discourage new migrants from attempting the journey, the Times reported.
The Times noted Johnson seems to have taken the advice.
"Removal flights from the United States to Haiti have now resumed," he said in a statement. "In the last several weeks ICE has removed over 200 Haitian nationals and plans to significantly expand removal operations in the coming weeks."
Of the 41,000 migrants being held, more than 4,400 are Haitians, Johnson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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