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Detention Reform

Archived Content

In an effort to keep ICE.gov current, the archive contains content from a previous administration or is otherwise outdated. This information is archived and not reflective of current practice.

Detention Reform

Detention Reform

ICE’s civil detention system reduces transfers, maximizes access to counsel and visitation, promotes recreation, improves conditions of confinement and ensures quality medical, mental health and dental care.

Detention Reform Accomplishments
Date Accomplishment
August 2009 Created the Office of Detention Policy and Planning – as well as an independent Office of Detention Oversight that reports directly to the ICE director – to focus on greater federal oversight, to provide specific attention to detainee care and to design a civil detention system.
August 2009 Established two advisory boards comprising local and national stakeholders, and secured ongoing non-governmental organization collaboration on key reform initiatives.
September 2009 Discontinued family detention at the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility in Texas and converted the facility to be used solely as a female detention center.
September 2009 Issued new protocols to increase transparency related to the reporting and notification of detainee deaths.
October 2009 Centralized detention facility contracts under ICE headquarters supervision to aggressively enforce contract compliance and initiate new procurements.
December 2009 and ongoing Collaborated with vendors to provide specific no-cost improvements, such as increased recreation and contact visitation, to improve conditions of confinement.
January 2010 Issued a revised parole policy permitting arriving aliens found to have a credible fear of persecution to be automatically considered for parole if they establish their identities, pose neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community and have no additional factors weighing against release.
January 2010 Streamlined the process for detainee health care treatment authorizations, ensuring clinical directors have autonomy to approve requests. Installed regional managed care coordinators throughout the United States, to provide expeditious and ongoing case management for complex medical cases across the country.
February 2010 Created the Detention Monitoring Council, which engages ICE senior leadership in the review of detention facility inspection reports, assessment of corrective action plans, implementation of detention reforms and other ongoing oversight issues.
April 2010 Established an On-Site Detention Compliance Oversight Program, comprising a corps of more than 40 new federal detention site managers (DSM) located at major detention facilities, housing more than 80 percent of the detainee population. On an ongoing basis, DSMs inspect facilities to ensure compliance with ICE detention standards, to report and respond to problems, and to work with local ICE field offices to address concerns.
July 2010 Launched a Web-based detainee locator system enabling attorneys, family and friends to find a detainee in ICE custody and to access information about the facility, including address and visiting hours.
September 2010 Developed a new Intergovernmental Service Agreement template to standardize detention services contracts and improve compliance with terms and conditions by clearly identifying the sanctions associated with non-compliance.
December 2010 Simplified the process for detainees to receive authorized health care treatments and thereby improved accessibility of care.
September 2011 Issued a new Access Policy Directive, establishing procedures for stakeholders to tour and visit detention facilities.
September 2011 Opened Delaney Hall, a 450-bed civil detention facility in Essex, N.J., to provide low-risk detainees with improved conditions of confinement, including robust indoor and outdoor recreation, freedom of movement and contact visitation.
January 2012 Issued a new Transfer Directive to minimize the long-distance transfer of detainees within ICE's detention system. This directive establishes criteria for transfer decisions that will substantially reduce the transfer of detainees who have family members in the area, local attorneys, or pending immigration proceedings. The new policy coincided with improved alignment of detention capacity with apprehension activity in the New York and Los Angeles areas of responsibility (AOR), resulting in a greater than 90 percent reduction in pre-final order long-distance transfers from those AORs.
February 2012 Promulgated the 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS 2011), which better addresses the needs of ICE's unique detainee population by, among other things, improving medical and mental health care, maximizing access to counsel and legal resources, reinforcing protections against sexual abuse and assault, augmenting religious opportunities and enhancing procedures for reviewing and responding to detainee grievances. PBNDS 2011 currently applies to facilities housing approximately 60% of ICE's average daily detainee population. PBNDS 2011 currently applies to facilities housing approximately 60% of ICE's average daily detainee population.
March 2012 Opened the Karnes County Civil Detention Center in Karnes City, Texas, which is the first facility designed and built from the ground up with ICE's civil detention reform standards in mind. The facility offers free movement throughout the day and early evening hours; eight person dorms, each with a television, a private bathroom with a shower, seating, tables and a phone; a spacious outdoor recreation area with basketball and handball courts, a turf soccer field, sand volleyball court and several covered pavilions with seating; multiple dayrooms with televisions, furniture, and microwave ovens; and a medical clinic, cafeteria with extended hours, library, chapel, educational space, indoor gymnasium, and computer lab with access to email services.
May 2012 Issued a Directive on Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention, which establishes a zero-tolerance policy with respect to sexual abuse or assault of individuals in ICE custody. The Directive delineates duties of agency employees for timely reporting, coordinated response and investigation, and effective monitoring of all incidents of sexual abuse or assault of individuals in ICE custody. Pursuant to the Directive, ICE has developed and deployed new comprehensive sexual assault prevention training for all ICE employees who may have contact with detainees, and distributed new detainee awareness and education materials to all detention facilities. ICE has also hired a Prevention of Sexual Assault (PSA) Coordinator to oversee efforts to improve prevention and response practices, and designated at least one PSA Coordinator in each ERO Field Office to ensure field compliance with ICE sexual assault policies.
June 2012 Distributed to all detention facilities a "Know Your Rights" video, which was developed by the American Bar Association, and self-help legal materials, which were developed by various Legal Orientation Programs, to enhance availability of accessible legal resources for detainees.
July 2012 Initiated nationwide deployment (completed in January 2013) of a new automated Risk Classification Assessment instrument to improve transparency and uniformity in detention custody and classification decisions. This assessment is incorporated into the ICE book-in process. It contains objective criteria to guide decision making, regarding whether an alien should be detained or released, and if detained, the alien's appropriate custody classification level. The Risk Classification Assessment incorporates factors that reflect the agency's civil enforcement priorities. It also requires ICE officers to determine whether there is any special vulnerability that may impact custody and classification determinations.
September 2012 Established a toll-free national Detention Reporting and Information Line to serve as an additional channel for detainees at all detention facilities to communicate directly with ERO and to better address concerns from the public (including those related to detention).
April 2013 Issued a memorandum on "Civil Immigration Detention: Guidance for New Identification and Information-Sharing Procedures Related to Unrepresented Detainees With Serious Mental Disorders or Conditions." The guidance directs ICE component offices to assist the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) in identifying unrepresented individuals detained in ICE custody who have serious mental disorders or conditions that may render them mentally incompetent. The guidance complements an EOIR policy issued simultaneously that provides for: EOIR-administered forensic competency examinations by independent experts in appropriate cases, and pro bono or EOIR-funded qualified representation for detained individuals found to be mentally incompetent.
August 2013 Issued a directive on "Facilitating Parental Rights in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Actions," establishing policy and procedures to ensure that ICE immigration enforcement efforts do not unnecessarily undermine the parental rights of parents or legal guardians of United States citizen or legal permanent resident minor children, or parents who are primary caretakers of minor children without regard to the dependent's citizenship. The Directive outlines ICE policies and procedures concerning the placement, monitoring, accommodation, and repatriation of parents or legal guardians. Note: This directive was revised and superseded by the August 2017 directive, “Detention and Removal of Alien Parents or Legal Guardians."

Additional information can be found in the ICE Detained Parents Directive.
August 2013 Deployed an electronic health records system (eHR) at all detention facilities staffed by the ICE Health Service Corps. The eHR is designed to improve the delivery of health care to detainees, enhance communication among facilities, and increase continuity of care.
August 2013 Opened ICE's first mental health transitional unit at the Krome Service Processing Center (SPC) in Miami, FL. The unit was created to address the mental health needs of detainees not requiring a full hospitalization, but who have medical conditions significant enough that housing in the general population with other detainees is not feasible.
September 2013 Issued a directive on "Review of the Use of Segregation for ICE Detainees," establishing requirements for ICE review and oversight of facility decisions to place detainees in segregated housing for over 14 days, or placements in segregation for any length of time in the case of detainees for whom heightened concerns exist based on the detainee's health or other special vulnerabilities. The Directive enhances reporting requirements for facilities concerning such cases, and requires ICE Field Offices and Headquarters to evaluate on an ongoing basis the appropriateness of continued placement in segregation, and to consider the availability of any potential housing or custodial alternatives.
October 2013 Deployed an automated Segregation Review Management System (SRMS) in October 2013, a web-based system that serves as a central point for documenting, tracking, and reviewing segregation cases to facilitate compliance with ICE's August 2013 Directive on "Review of the Use of Segregation for ICE Detainees." SRMS allows ERO Field Offices to submit notifications about segregation placements to ICE Headquarters in real time, and facilitates the ability of Headquarters components to jointly review cases and coordinate recommendations as to the appropriateness of segregation or alternative options.
May 2014 Issued a revised Directive on Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention, initially released in May 2012. The original Directive delineated duties of agency employees for timely reporting, coordinated response and investigation, and effective monitoring of all incidents of sexual abuse or assault of individuals in ICE custody. The revised Directive incorporates additional requirements from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulation titled, "Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Sexual Abuse and Assault in Confinement Facilities," 79 Fed. Reg. 13100 (Mar. 7, 2014). Among other things, the revisions to the Directive outline procedures by which ICE will make victim services available to victims of sexual assault, and establish requirements relating to accommodation of detainees with disabilities or limited English proficiency.
June 2015 Issued a memorandum titled Further Guidance Regarding the Care of Transgender Detainees (Transgender Care Memorandum), establishing Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) policy and procedures for the custody and care of transgender individuals in ICE detention facilities. The Memorandum contains guidance in multiple areas of the ICE detention lifecycle to better serve transgender individuals, including: data systems; initial processing; housing placements; and transfers. The Transgender Care Memorandum also contains a voluntary ICE detention facility Contract Modification Template that ICE can use in contract negotiations to ensure certain practices related to the care of transgender individuals custody. The contract modification template calls for the formation of a multidisciplinary Transgender Care Classification Committee at the facility level which will be responsible for making decisions related to searches, clothing options, housing assignments, medical care, and housing reassessments for transgender individuals.
December 2016 Issued a policy memorandum titled Identification and Monitoring of Pregnant Detainees, consolidating existing guidance and setting forth additional procedures to ensure that pregnant women detained in ICE custody are identified, monitored and housed in the most appropriate facility to manage their care. This guidance complements ICE’s national detention standards and ICE Health Service Corps policies. It also outlines the relevant responsibilities of divisions within ERO to identify and track pregnant detainees, ensure that they are receiving appropriate prenatal care and re-evaluate their continued detention on an ongoing basis.

2016: ERO Directive 11071.1: Assessment and Accommodations for Detainees with Disabilities implements and complements the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, (Section 504) as amended, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in federally assisted and federally conducted programs or activities in the United States. The directive also establishes ERO roles and responsibilities; procedures and requirements; oversight and reporting; and required trainings.

Issued a memorandum titled Further Guidance Regarding the Care of Transgender Detainees (Transgender Care Memorandum), establishing ERO policy and procedures for the custody and care of self-identified transgender individuals in ICE detention facilities. The memorandum represents the recommendations of an agency working group established in October 2014 and contains guidance in multiple areas of the ICE detention lifecycle to better serve transgender individuals, including data system updates; initial processing; housing placements; and transfers.
August 2017 The directive, “Facilitating Parental Rights in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Actions,” was revised and reissued, titled, “Detention and Removal of Alien Parents or Legal Guardians.” The revised directive supersedes the August 2013 issued directive, “Facilitating Parental Rights in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Actions.”

Additional information can be found at: ICE Detained Parents Directive.

 

Policy Reform

ICE has a broad mandate that includes protecting and securing the borders through immigration enforcement at U.S. borders and ports of entry. Due to limited resources, ICE must prioritize its enforcement efforts to best protect the security of our communities and the integrity of the immigration system. This includes focusing on criminal aliens, fugitives, and recent border violators.

Summary of Policy Reforms
Date Accomplishment
April 2009 Worksite Enforcement: ICE issued a revised worksite enforcement strategy to focus on prosecuting employers, not simply arresting and removing workers. This policy steps away from the large raids resulting in significant numbers of arrested workers.
July 2009 Refocusing the 287(g) Program: ICE revised the standard memorandum of agreement to restrict the immigration authority delegated to our state and local partners. The new agreements prohibit street officers from arresting aliens solely for civil immigration violations and convey clearly that officers must act in a manner consistent with ICE's highest priority – the arrest of aliens convicted of crimes, with a particular focus on level one offenders.
September 2009 Issued new protocols to increase transparency related to the reporting and notification of detainee deaths.
September 2009 Victims of Crimes: ICE issued a directive to ICE attorneys to move to dismiss cases against aliens who are, at first encounter, presumed eligible for U-visas as the victims of crime. The same document directs that the aliens be granted a stay of removal pending the adjudication of their application for a U-visa.
October 2009 Reporting Detainee Deaths: ICE issued a directive to promote transparency and accountability following any detainee death. The directive includes notifications to the Office of the Inspector General, Office of Professional Responsibility, Congress, media and stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations. The prior media policy failed to facilitate disclosure to the media, as detailed in a recent New York Times article. See a list of detainees who died in ICE custody.
November 2009 U.S. Citizens: To address concerns that some U.S. citizens have been placed in proceedings, detained and removed, ICE instituted new guidelines to ensure such errors do not occur.
December 2009 Parole of Arriving Aliens with a Credible Fear of Persecution: Reversing a 2007 policy that was broadly criticized, ICE issued a policy that presumes all arriving aliens who claim to fear persecution will apply for parole. The policy weighs in favor of release from detention so long as the alien's identity is reasonably known and the alien does not present a danger to the community or a significant risk of flight.
December 2009 Refocusing Fugitive Operations: To address concern that more “collateral” aliens were arrested during fugitive operations than fugitive aliens, ICE issued new guidance that prioritizes criminal fugitives over non-criminal fugitives. Except in extraordinary circumstances, the policy also prohibits the detention of aliens who are seriously ill, disabled, pregnant, nursing or the sole caretakers of children or the infirm.
January 2010 Issued a revised parole policy permitting arriving aliens found to have a credible fear of persecution to be automatically considered for parole if they establish their identities, pose neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community and have no additional factors weighing against release.
June 2010 ICE Strategic Plan: ICE issued a memo outlining its organizational priorities and targeted goals to improve overall performance, effectiveness and efficiency.
June 2010 ICE Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities: ICE issued a memo outlining the prioritization of its enforcement mission by directing resources toward the apprehension and removal of: aliens who pose a threat to national security or public safety, such as convicted criminals; fugitives; and recent border violators and visa overstays.
** An additional statement was added to ICE Policy 10072.1, "Civil Immigration Enforcement: Priorities for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens." A memorandum on the policy was reissued on March 2, 2011. The policy contained in the memorandum was not altered or changed.
August 2010 Removal Proceedings of Aliens with Pending or Approved Petitions: ICE issued guidance on the handling of alien removal proceedings to increase efficiency from the issuance of a Notice to Appear through the entry of a final administrative order.
June 2011 Detainer Form: ICE issued a revised detainer form to clarify the 48-hour rule, notify the subject of the detainer that a detainer has been issued, and increase flexibility for the field to issue a detainer contingent on conviction.
June 2011 Prosecutorial Discretion Memo: Certain Victims, Witnesses and Plaintiffs: ICE issued a policy to guide officers, agents and attorneys in how to handle the cases of victims and witnesses of crime and cases of plaintiffs in civil rights suits.
June 2011 Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Aliens: ICE issued a new policy to guide officers, agents and attorneys in their exercise of prosecutorial discretion. The policy complements the civil enforcement memorandum issued on June 30, 2010. ICE soon will advise the unions of the implementation plan.
January 2012 Transfer Directive: ICE issued a new transfer directive that will minimize, to the greatest extent possible, the long-distance transfer of detainees within ICE's detention system. This directive establishes requirements for transfer decisions that will substantially reduce the transfer of detainees who have family members in the area, local attorneys or pending immigration proceedings.
December 2012 National Detainer Guidance: This guidance limits the use of detainers to individuals who meet the department's enforcement priorities and restricts the use of detainers against individuals arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes, helping to ensure that available resources are focused on apprehending felons, repeat offenders and other ICE priorities. It is applicable to all ICE enforcement programs, including Secure Communities.
April 2013 Civil Immigration Detention: Guidance for New Identification and Information-Sharing Procedures Related to Unrepresented Detainees With Serious Mental Disorders or Conditions: ICE issued guidance for new identification and information-sharing procedures related to unrepresented detainees with serious mental disorders or conditions.
August 2013 Detained Parents Directive: ICE issued a directive that compliments existing ICE policy and procedures to address certain alien parents. The directive addresses the placement, monitoring, accommodation and removal of certain alien parents or legal guardians.

The August 2013 directive has been superseded by the August 2017 directive.
September 2013 Review of the Use of Segregation Directive: ICE issued a directive that establishes policy and procedures for the review and oversight of decisions to place ICE detainees in segregated housing for over 14 days, or placements in segregation for any length of time in the case of detainees for whom heightened concerns exist based on factors related to the detainee's health or other special vulnerabilities. The purpose of the Directive is to ensure that detainees are housed in segregation only when necessary, and that less restrictive options are utilized when appropriate and available.
May 2014 Issued a revised Directive on Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention, initially released in May 2012, which establishes a zero-tolerance policy with respect to sexual abuse or assault of individuals in ICE custody. The policy delineates duties of agency employees for timely reporting, coordinating response and investigation, and effective monitoring of all incidents of sexual abuse or assault of individuals in ICE custody. Pursuant to the original Directive, ICE has developed and deployed new comprehensive sexual assault prevention training for all ICE employees who may have contact with detainees, and distributed new detainee awareness and education materials to all detention facilities. ICE has also hired a full-time agency-wide Prevention of Sexual Assault (PSA) Coordinator to oversee efforts to improve prevention and response practices, and designated at least one PSA Coordinator in each ERO Field Office to ensure field compliance with ICE sexual assault policies. The revised Directive incorporates additional requirements from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulation titled, "Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Sexual Abuse and Assault in Confinement Facilities," 79 Fed. Reg. 13100 (Mar. 7, 2014). Among other things, the revisions to the Directive outline procedures by which ICE will make victim services available to victims of sexual assault, and establish requirements relating to accommodation of detainees with disabilities or limited English proficiency.
August 2017 Detained Parents Directive: ICE revised and reissued the directive, superseding the 2013 version.

 

Toll-Free Hotline

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has established a toll-free hotline – (855) 448-6903. Detained individuals can call this hotline if they believe they may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime. The hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by ICE personnel at the Law Enforcement Support Center. Translation services will be available in several languages from 7 a.m. to midnight (Eastern). ICE personnel will collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office for immediate action.

If you are a detained individual and believe you may be a U.S. citizen or a victim of a crime, please call (855) 448-6903.

Updated: 01/08/2021