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ERO: Detention Management

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) manages and oversees the nation’s civil immigration detention system. ICE detainees placed in ERO custody represent virtually every country in the world, various security classifications, both genders and medical conditions ranging from healthy to terminally ill.

Non-U.S. citizens who are apprehended and determined to need custodial supervision are placed in detention facilities. Those who are released from secure custody constitute ERO's "nondetained" docket. Every case, whether "detained" or "non-detained," remains part of ERO's caseload and is actively managed until it is formally closed. ERO processes and monitors detained and non-detained cases as they move through immigration court proceedings to conclusion. At that point, ERO executes the judge's order.

Through an aggressive inspections program, ICE ensures its facilities follow ICE's National Detention Standards (NDS). ERO's Detention Standards Compliance Unit ensures that detainees in ICE custody reside in safe, secure and humane environments and under appropriate conditions of confinement.

The NDS were originally issued in September 2000 to facilitate consistent conditions of confinement, access to legal representation and safe and secure operations across the detention system. The standards established consistency of program operations and management expectations, accountability for compliance and a culture of professionalism.

ICE now uses Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) that focus on results or outcomes. Each detention center must meet specified standards.

As part of the restructuring of the former INS, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 transferred the responsibilities related to the care and custody of unaccompanied alien children to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement. To that end, ERO developed policy and procedures regarding the appropriate case management of unaccompanied alien children in Federal custody while they wait for immigration proceedings. ERO coordinates closely with DHS partners to ensure the timely and safe transfer of unaccompanied alien children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement in accordance with both the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.

Family Residential Centers maintain family unity as families go through immigration proceedings or await return to their home countries. ICE ensures that these residential centers operate in an open environment, which includes access to medical care, social workers, educational services, legal counsel and recreational opportunities. A language services program provides indigenous language interpretation for residents in family residential centers, to improve meaningful access to services within the centers.

To be eligible to stay at a residential center, the family cannot have a criminal history and must include a non-U.S. citizen child or children under the age of eighteen accompanied by his/her/their non-U.S. citizen parent(s) or legal guardian(s). With limited exceptions stays at residential centers are generally limited to 20 days.

Families are medically screened upon arrival by a licensed nursing staff that is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The facilities provide ongoing medical, dental and mental health care as needed.

All school-aged children receive educational services by state certified teachers. The centers include communal activity rooms, social library, law library, televisions, recreation areas and toddler play areas. Residents have access to cafeterias with child friendly and cultural food choices offered three times a day. Refrigerators in common areas are stocked with fresh fruit, milk and water 24-hours a day. Families have access to an on-site commissary to purchase additional food, snacks and drinks.

Social and legal visitation opportunities are available to residents seven days a week.

ICE headquarters has a designated unit that oversees the compliance of family residential standards and manages an independent compliance inspection program through a contracted team of juvenile subject matter experts. 

ICE’s three Family Residential Centers (FRC) include:

As detailed in the June 2017 DHS Inspector General’s report, the family residential centers are “clean, well-organized, and efficiently run” and the agency was found to be “addressing the inherent challenges of providing medical care and language services and ensuring the safety of families in detention.”

Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/25/2019