The U.S. immigration detention system has grown under the Biden administration at an alarming rate. Despite promises to review the overall detention apparatus and close out the worst facilities, the administration has renewed contracts for facilities with records of abuse and is now requesting that Congress fund a dramatic expansion in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) detention budget. For years, government watchdogs and civil society have tracked and reported on the lack of compliance with basic standards of care for people in DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. However, ICE’s oversight system has failed to prevent persistent abuse and inhumane conditions.
ICE’s continuation of a failed oversight system is knowing and inexcusable. NIJC released a report documenting these same deficiencies nearly a decade ago, and the DHS’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report confirming these findings more than five years ago. ICE’s inspection process is deliberately designed to rubber stamp facility compliance with already-compromised standards to keep facilities from closing, no matter the human cost. When oversight bodies do make timely recommendations to phase down facilities, ICE often rejects or ignores them. The result is a detention system that exacerbates and creates physical and mental health crises, including preventable deaths.
ICE’s failure to engage in meaningful oversight is part of a larger detention and enforcement apparatus that covers up abuse and stifles accountability, allowing for lucrative contracts to continue. Before entering office, President Biden promised to end private immigration detention, but that promise was soon broken. Under the Biden administration, the number of people held in ICE detention has swelled from 14,000 to over 39,000 people locked up awaiting their civil immigration proceedings. A close look at the paper trail of abuse reveals that ICE detention is beyond repair, and supports the conclusion that the punitive use of detention for people in civil immigration proceedings should end.
This policy brief:
- Examines ICE’s standards and inspections system that permits abuse and impunity to prevail;
- Discusses the deadly consequences of ICE rejecting Congress and government watchdog recommendations;
- Highlights growing movements to move funds away from ICE detention and close facilities across the country.