Immigration Detention

Immigration Detention Across the United States

America is a land of immigrants. For years, the “American Dream” has inspired thousands across the globe to immigrate to the United States (U.S.). The Statue of Liberty represents such ideals, stating “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Yet, current leadership, including President Donald Trump, has made life in the U.S. harder for many immigrants. One increased effort, supported by the Trump administration, is that of detainment. Additionally, the president has attempted to dissemble critical options for immigrants, including DACA, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and asylum.

In the last year, immigration detention has received significant news attention. The American public witnessed the disastrous realities of Trump’s family separation policies in Spring 2018. At the end of the year, two children died while in government custody after being apprehended by border patrol agents. As these news stories highlight, detainment often leads to denial of basic human rights and can also lead to many other serious consequences. Recently, the American Immigration Council (AIC) released a report that explores nationwide data about immigration detention.

Immigration detention often has negative effects on both the wellness and future of those imprisoned. In this article, we will explore data from the AIC’s recent report, including demographic information and challenges faced by those detained.

Understanding the Detainee Population

In order to fully understand the current state of immigration detention in the U.S., it’s important to explore data about detainees.  How many face detainment? What countries or geographical areas are they from? Where are they housed?

How Many People Does the Government Detain?

In 1994, the government detained, on a daily basis, roughly 7,000 people. By 2017, the population had ballooned to about 38,000 daily detainees. This is extremely costly, with a total average cost in 2017 of $1.4 billion.

Most Detainees are Young Males from Mexico or Central America

According to AIC data, the average detainee is 28 years old, with 42.5% of the detainee population being 18-30 years old. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population is under 18 years of age (17%). In fact, in fiscal year (FY) 2015, the government detained around 59,000 teens and children. Further, 79% of the detained population was male.

Considering country of origin, about 89% of detainees arrived from either Central America (46%) or Mexico (43%). In this case, Central America refers to foreign nationals from the “Northern Triangle” – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Thus, only 11% of the population derives from other areas across the world, including Latin America (5.5%), Europe & North America (1.1%), Asia/Pacific (3.3%), and Africa (1.5%).

Within the report, the AIC highlights concerns that the “U.S. deportation regime…[is] a gendered racial removal program that targets Latino men.” The data above support such a claim and call for “systemic investigations” into the issue, according to the AIC.

Texas and California Housed the Most Detainees

Throughout the U.S., ICE utilized 638 immigrant detention facilities in FY 2015. The greatest concentration of facilities was in two states: California and Texas. Both states have more than 50 detention facilities. In fact, Texas alone has 115 and houses 43.6% of the detainee population. California follows, with 70 facilities housing 11.6% of immigrants in ICE detention. Observing these data, only two states imprison over half of the U.S.’s detainee population.

Challenges Faced by Detainees

Obviously, immigrants who are subject to detainment face profound consequences. These can range from mild to severe, depending on each person’s experience and ultimate immigration decision. Unfortunately, those in detainment face less access to resources and counsel, thus lowering chances for success overall. In this section, we discuss challenges faced by those in immigrant detention.

Privately Owned Facilities

According to the AIC’s report, ICE contracts with private facilities across the country. But the AIC found an association between such private facilities and several negative effects for detainees. For example, detention lengths in these locations were “consistently and substantially longer” whether the subject was removed, granted relief, or temporarily released pending immigration court proceedings.

Additionally, those housed in private facilities were more likely to file grievances. The mean grievances filed during FY 2015 for privately owned facilities was 691.3, compared to 41.9 for government facilities. This staggering difference highlights the potential dangers faced by those  detained outside of government-funded facilities. The AIC reports that it is likely harder to file grievances in private facilities in the first place, so the high mean is especially worrying.

Access to Legal Counsel

The most common detainee grievance reported was lack of access to legal counsel and/or case information. In fact, this represents nearly 67% of all grievances filed, or 31,417 grievances out of a total of 47,145. Again, detainees file reports regarding issues accessing counsel and case information more often in privately owned facilities. Unsurprisingly, such reports were also more common in geographically remote detention locations.

Further, the AIC found that those in remote locations had limited access to legal counsel. And, according to 2015 data, nearly 58% of detainees stayed at least one time in a detention facility located at least 30 miles driving distance from accessible legal help. Accessible legal help is defined by the AIC as the “nearest nonprofit immigration attorney who practiced removal defense.” This distance is prohibitively far, effectively denying large groups of people their right to a lawyer.

Lack of access can deny immigrants their right to due process and fair consideration. If a system continually denies such rights, it’s a broken system. A comprehensive report on access to counsel and associated outcomes found that detained immigrants were significantly less likely to retain attorneys. Unfortunately, this means that they are also significantly less likely to see positive outcomes in their court cases. You can read our summary of Eagly & Shafer’s report here.

Get Help from an Expert Immigration Lawyer

Without a doubt, even the thought of detainment can cause great distress. If you or a loved one face ICE or government detention for any reason, you need proper legal protection immediately. Contact an expert immigration attorney today – don’t wait. Nanthaveth & Associates can help – set up a free initial consultation to discuss your concerns with one of our lawyers. Our passionate team of professionals works to ensure that every client receives fair consideration no matter their situation.

About the Report

The American Immigration Council (AIC) released its report on FY 2015 federal detention data on December 8, 2018. Titled “The Landscape of Immigration Detention in the United States,” the report provides myriad details and information for those interested in the current state of immigrant imprisonment in America. Unless otherwise stated, reported data and quotations originate from this report. You can read the report in its entirety here.

And other sources cited, including Eagly & Shafer and The New York Times, are referenced via links throughout the article for your convenience.