Skip to main content

Immigration detention is growing at an unprecedented rate despite more humane, cost-effective alternatives that ensure due process. ICE jails families and others seeking protection at our southern borders as well as those caught up in the Trump administration’s expanded immigration raids. Immigration detention has been proven to traumatize vulnerable populations, jeopardize the basic health and safety of those detained, and undermine meaningful access to counsel in isolated, remote facilities. Immigration detention is driven by profit and politics, not public safety. It continues to be used despite the availability of effective and cost-efficient alternatives to detention.

This policy brief discusses available alternative forms of custody, and makes the case for why they should be employed as true alternatives to incarceration, not as a way to expand the population of individuals under government supervision and control.

A spectrum of alternatives to detention has long existed as the option the government should use in place of mass detention. Many apprehended immigrants and asylum seekers already have strong community ties. Asylum seekers and those with credible legal claims and family and community in the United States have strong incentives to appear in immigration court and comply with requirements. Consequently, for many, release on recognizance or a minimal bond is appropriate because they pose little flight risk or risk to the community.