A Border Patrol agent watches the U.S. border with Mexico on Aug. 25, 2010, near Nogales, Ariz. Photo by Jim Greenhill/Flickr

A Texas congressman is accusing federal immigration officials of not enforcing the law by failing to fill the country’s 34,000 detention beds.

Republican Rep. John Culberson made the comments during a budget subcommittee hearing Wednesday. An inewsource report last week found the number of immigrant detainees to be the lowest in nearly a decade.

Immigrant detention centers hold non-American citizens who are facing deportation for various reasons, including committing a crime or being in the country illegally.

The latest federal government figures show the average daily detainee population for the first five months of fiscal 2015 was 26,374. Last year, an average of more than 33,000 people were being held on a daily basis, and since 2007, the number has always been more than 30,000.

“(Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Director (Sarah) Saldaña confirmed today that ICE will not use the 34,000 detention beds as the law requires,” Culberson wrote in a statement Thursday to inewsource.

“As I told Director Saldaña today, when something says ‘shall’ it’s not optional,” Culberson wrote.

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