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Detention Management


Detention Management

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) manages the nation’s civil immigration detention system and oversees one of the most highly transient and diverse populations of any detention system in the world.

Detention Standards

Regardless of whether detention facilities are owned and operated by ICE, a state or local entity, or a contractor, all facilities housing ICE detainees must comply with one of several sets of detention standards which describe a facility’s immigration detention responsibilities, explain what detainee services a facility must provide, and identify what a facility must do to ensure a safe and secure detention environment for staff and noncitizens in detention:

Detention Facility Oversight

To ensure compliance with each contract’s terms and conditions and the applicable detention standards, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employ a robust, multilevel oversight and compliance program. ERO monitors detention conditions through daily on-site compliance reviews to identify deficiencies, areas of concern, contract and facility issues, and to facilitate corrective actions. All facilities that house noncitizens detained by ICE are required to follow a strict set of detention standards.

Detention Policies

Detention is non-punitive. Once a noncitizen is transferred to ICE custody, the agency makes a custody determination. ICE uses its limited detention resources to detain noncitizens to secure their presence for immigration proceedings or removal from the United States — as well as those that are subject to mandatory detention, as outlined by the Immigration and Nationality Act, or those that ICE determines are a public safety or flight risk during the custody determination process.

When a noncitizen is not subject to mandatory detention or is not deemed to be a public safety or flight risk, ICE exercises its discretion in making custody determinations to release noncitizens with conditions. These custody decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and after considering the totality of circumstances — primarily considering risk of flight, national security threat and risk to public safety.

ICE also takes other factors into consideration — including when a noncitizen has a serious medical condition, is the primary caregiver of minor children, or other humanitarian considerations.

Family Detention

In the past, ICE housed family units — which contain adult noncitizen parents or legal guardians accompanied by their own juvenile noncitizen children — in its Family Residential Centers (FRCs). In March 2021, ICE converted the Family Residential Centers (FRCs) from an over-72-hour residential program to an under-72-hour residential/staging program called Family Staging Centers (FSCs).

In FY 2022, ICE opted to shift its resources again to increase efficiencies in Alternatives to Detention (ATD) enrollment for family units. ICE worked to co-locate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assist with limiting any processing slowdowns.

Once the agency determined that the FSCs were at a lower-than-expected capacity, ICE took steps to increase the use of the bed space for single adults and eventually, ICE stopped housing families entirely by December 2021.

Custody and Care of Unaccompanied Children (UC)

ICE does not detain unaccompanied children — except in rare instances.

  • As part of the restructuring of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 transferred the responsibilities related to the care and custody of unaccompanied undocumented children to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
  • In accordance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, ERO coordinates closely with inter-departmental partners to ensure the timely and safe transfer of unaccompanied noncitizen children from DHS to HHS ORR custody.
  • Additional detention policies and guidance can be found online.

Detention Statistics

ICE provides the following custody data below. The data tables are searchable and sortable, and worksheets are protected to ensure their accuracy and reliability. ICE confirms the integrity of the data as published on this site but cannot attest to subsequent transmissions. Data may fluctuate until it is locked at the conclusion of the fiscal year.