Detainment practices and statistics

On this page, the Prison Policy Initiative has curated all of the research about the incarceration of immigrants, and enforcement of immigration law, that we know of. For research on other criminal justice topics, see our Research Library homepage.

  • Electronic Monitoring of Migrants: Punitive not Prudent American Bar Association Commission on Immigration, February, 2024“Electronic monitoring programs are not true alternatives to detention. They are an expansion of detention that imposes a significant financial cost on taxpayers and a considerable human toll on the participants and their family members.”
  • Emergency Medical Responses at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Centers in California Annette M. Dekker et al, November, 2023“We found that EMS-reported medical emergencies were disproportionately for females at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, with 12% of all EMS-reported emergencies for female patients due to pregnancy concerns.”
  • Carceral Carousel Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Detention Watch Network, May, 2023“States have sought to reduce prison populations and close some jails. However, those closures have rarely, if ever, meant that the prison facilities would no longer operate as cages...these closures have paved the way for new expansions of ICE detention.”
  • Is It Dangerous to Live in Neighborhoods with More Immigrants? Assessing the Effects of Immigrant Concentration on Crime Patterns Paywall :( Sungil Han and Alex R. Piquero, April, 2021“Results show that immigrant concentration is negatively associated with crime counts and, most importantly, that immigrant concentration moderates the effect of structural conditions on crime.”
  • Immigration and Crime: A Public Policy Red Herring CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance, January, 2021“Despite fears that more immigration leads to higher rates of violent crime, one of the most consistent findings among research on this topic is that increases in immigration are associated with decreases--not increases--in violent offenses.”
  • Immigrant Sanctuary Policies and Crime-Reporting Behavior: A Multilevel Analysis of Reports of Crime Victimization to Law Enforcement, 1980 to 2004 Paywall :( Ricardo D. Martinez-Schuldt and Daniel E. Martinez, January, 2021“We find that Latinos are more likely to report violent crime victimization to law enforcement after sanctuary policies have been adopted within their metropolitan areas of residence.”
  • Hotbeds of Infection: How ICE Detention Contributed to the Spread of COVID-19 in the United States Detention Watch Network, December, 2020“ICE's failure to release people from detention during the pandemic added over 245,000 cases to the total U.S. caseload.”
  • Evidence Shows That Most Immigrants Appear for Immigration Court Hearings Vera Institute of Justice, October, 2020“Data from Vera's programs and other studies shows that most immigrants released from custody continue to appear in court when represented by counsel.”
  • Punishing status and the punishment status quo: Solitary confinement in U.S. Immigration prisons, 2013-2017 Konrad Franco, Caitlin Patler, and Keramet Reiter, October, 2020“Solitary confinement cases involving immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are vastly overrepresented in comparison to the share of these groups in the overall detained population.”
  • Injustice and the Disappearance of Discretionary Detention under Trump: Detaining Low Risk Immigrants without Bond Robert Koulish and Katherine Evans, May, 2020“The data show that officers have manipulated the risk tool by subjecting low-risk immigrants to blanket detention, which has come to define the no-release Trump immigration policy in the New York City area.”
  • Modeling COVID-19 and impacts on U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, 2020 Irvine et al., April, 2020“Preventing the rapid spread necessitates intervention measures such as granting ICE detainees widespread release from an unsafe environment by returning them to the community.”
  • Growth in ICE Detention Fueled by Immigrants with No Criminal Conviction TRAC Immigration, November, 2019“On the last day of April 2019, ICE held about 50,000 people in detention centers nationwide. Nearly 32,000 - or 64% - of detainees had no criminal conviction on record.”
  • Jailing Immigrant Detainees: A National Study of County Participation in Immigration Detention, 1983-2013 Emily Ryo and Ian Peacock, November, 2019“We find that the number of counties confining immigrant detainees steadily increased between 1983 and 2013, with the largest growth concentrated in small to medium sized, rural, and Republican counties located in the South.”
  • Cashing in on Cruelty: Stories of death, abuse and neglect at the GEO immigration detention facility in Aurora ACLU of Colorado, September, 2019“The decision to stop Mr. Samimi's methadone, and subsequent failure to recognize and treat his withdrawal properly, exposes a critical lack of competency, compassion and proper medical care inside the facility.”
  • ISOLATED: ICE Confines Some Detainees with Mental Illness in Solitary for Months Project On Government Oversight, August, 2019“About 40 percent of the records show detainees placed in solitary have mental illness. At some detention centers, the percentage is much higher.”
  • Immigration, Citizenship, and the Federal Justice System, 1998-2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 2019“In 1998, 63% of all federal arrests were of U.S. citizens; in 2018, 64% of all federal arrests were of non-U.S. citizens.”
  • Federal Sentencing of Hispanic Defendants in Changing Immigrant Destinations Paywall :( Jeffery T. Ulmer and Brandy R. Parker, June, 2019“New destinations, along with non-immigrant destinations, sentenced Hispanic non-citizens more harshly, especially the undocumented.”
  • Not in my Exam Room: How U.S. Immigration Enforcement Is Obstructing Medical Care Physicians for Human Rights, June, 2019“Public health research has documented widening racial and ethnic health disparities as a result of punitive and discriminatory immigration enforcement practices within the militarized border zone.”
  • Immigrants' Deportations, Local Crime and Police Effectiveness Annie Laurie Hines and Giovanni Peri, June, 2019(We find that Secure Communities-driven increases in deportation rates did not reduce crime rates for violent offenses or property offenses.)
  • Criminal Immigrants in 2017: Their Numbers, Demographics, and Countries of Origin Cato Institute, March, 2019“Legal and illegal immigrants were less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans in 2017, just as they were in 2014 and 2016.”
  • The State of Black Immigrants Black Alliance for Just Immigration, January, 2019“Black immigrants are disproportionately represented among immigrants facing deportation in immigration court on criminal grounds.”
  • ICEwatch: ICE Raids Tactics Map A Brief Summary of ICE Raids Trends to Accompany Immigrant Defense Project, July, 2018“Since its inception, ICE has demonstrated an indifference to community members' constitutional rights and little interest in internal accountability for misconduct.”
  • Swept Up in the Sweep: The Impact of Gang Allegations on Immigrant New Yorkers New York Immigration Coalition, May, 2018“By broadly casting immigrant Latinx youth as gang members to be targeted for incarceration and deportation, even the outward pretense of basic rights and due process is pushed to the side.”
  • The Cost of Crimmigration: Exploring the Intersection Between Criminal Justice and Immigration Justice Policy Institute, June, 2017“While costing counties and cities more, immigration enforcement also undermines public safety as residents fear interacting with local law enforcement, and policing resources are deployed away from more effective crime prevention and enforcement”
  • Urban crime rates and the changing face of immigration: Evidence across four decades Robert Adelman, Lesley Williams Reid, Gail Markle, Saskia Weiss, and Charles Jaret, September, 2016“Our results indicate that immigration is consistently linked to decreases in violent (e.g., murder) and property (e.g., burglary) crime throughout the time period.”
  • Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border Grassroots Leadership, Justice Strategies, July, 2016“The criminal prosecution of migrants crossing our southern border has had profound impacts on the federal courts and federal prisons over the last decade.”
  • Isolated in Essex: Punishing immigrants through solitary confinement New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, American Friends Service Committee, and New York University School of Law Immigrants Rights Clinic, June, 2016“This report completes the picture by presenting an analysis of previously unavailable data regarding the use of disciplinary solitary confinement ("disciplinary segregation") against immigrant detainees in Essex County Correctional Facility[.]”
  • Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2016 Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2016(The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in thousands of facilities, and we go deeper to provide further detail on where and why.)
  • Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention ACLU; Detention Watch Network; National Immigrant Justice Center, February, 2016“This report examines egregious violations of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) own medical care standards that played a significant role in eight in-custody deaths from 2010 to 2012.”
  • Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2015 Prison Policy Initiative, December, 2015(The U.S. locks up more than 2.3 million people in prisons, jails, and other facilities on any given day.)
  • Remote Adjudication in Immigration Ingrid V. Eagly, November, 2015(Detained litigants assigned to televideo courtrooms exhibited depressed engagement with the adversarial process--they were less likely to retain counsel, apply to remain lawfully in the United States, or seek voluntary departure.)
  • A Price Too High: US Families Torn Apart by Deportations for Drug Offenses Human Rights Watch, June, 2015“[T]he US is deporting a significant number of both permanent residents and undocumented individuals with strong family and community ties to the US, often for minor or old drug offenses.”
  • 23 Hours in the Box: Solitary Confinement in New Jersey Immigration Detention New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, June, 2015“The passage of a bill like NJ S 2588 would mark a dramatic and humane improvement over the current disciplinary system.”
  • Unlocking Human Dignity: A Plan to Transform the U.S. Immigrant Detention System Migration and Refugee Services/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and The Center for Migration Studies, May, 2015“The US immigrant detention system grew more than fivefold between 1994 and 2013.”
  • A Changing Landscape: Pennsylvania Counties Reevaluate Policies on Immigration Detainers Sheller Center for Social Justice at the Temple University Beasley School of Law, March, 2015(Pennsylvania counties are moving away from honoring ICE detainers; a number of counties cited that these changes were undertaken in order to comply with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Galarza to avoid the possibility of legal liability.)
  • Citizenship and Punishment: The Salience of National Membership in U.S. Criminal Courts Michael T. Light, Michael Massoglia, and Ryan D. King, October, 2014“Noncitizens--particularly undocumented immigrants--are far more likely to be incarcerated and sentenced for longer periods than are U.S. citizens.”
  • For-Profit Family Detention: Meet the Private Prison Corporations Making Millions by Locking Up Refugee Families Grassroots Leadership; Justice Strategies, October, 2014“This report will scrutinize GEO’s dismal track record with operation of facilities holding immigrants, as well as its dreadful past history of failing to provide vulnerable children and youths with a safe and humane custodial environment.”
  • Does Immigration Enforcement Reduce Crime? Evidence from "Secure Communities" University of Chicago Law; New York University Law School, August, 2014“Our results show that Secure Communities has led to no meaningful reductions in the FBI index crime rate.”
  • Warehoused and Forgotten Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System American Civil Liberties Union, June, 2014“Nationwide, more than half of all federal criminal prosecutions initiated in fiscal year 2013 were for unlawfully crossing the border into the United States”
  • Are Immigration Detainer Practices Rational? Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, September, 2013“According to these data, an undocumented foreign national with a traffic offense is more likely to be booked into ICE detention than one with a homicide, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault offense.”
  • The Effect of Immigration Detainers in a Post-Realignment California CJCJ, August, 2013“89 percent of said non-criminal ICE detentions in California are in local jails and facilities. These detentions cost taxpayers approximately $16.3 million for local jail holds during the 30-month period studied”
  • Family Unity, Family Health: An Inquiry on Federal Immigration Policy (Case Story) Human Impact Partners, June, 2013“If deportations continue at 2012 levels, tens of thousands of U.S.-citizen children will suffer from poorer health, more behavioral problems, diminished educational achievement, increased poverty, and food insufficiency that may lead to hunger.”
  • Turning Migrants Into Criminals: The Harmful Impact of US Border Prosecutions Human Rights Watch, May, 2013“But the prosecutions of illegal entry offenses happening today are overbroad... and are thus draining resources that could go to efforts to increase public safety and create a more secure, efficient, and humane immigration system.”
  • Who Are the Targets of ICE Detainers? Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, February, 2013“In more than two out of three (77.4%) of the detainers issued by ICE, the record shows that the individual who had been identified had no criminal record — either at the time the detainer was issued or subsequently.”
  • Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery Migration Policy Institute, January, 2013“the US government spends more on its immigration enforcement agencies than on all its other principal criminal federal law enforcement agencies combined. In fY 2012, spending for the primary immigration enforcement agencies reached nearly $18 billion.”
  • Policing Immigration New York University School of Law; University of Chicago Law School, 2013“The data undermine the government's claim that Secure Communities is principally about making communities more secure from crime.”
  • Invisible in Isolation The Use of Segregation and Solitary Confinement in Immigrant Detention Heartland Alliance and Physicians for Human Rights, September, 2012“This report, the first of its kind, aims to examine the use of segregation and solitary confinement in the immigration detention system, share individual experiences, and provide concrete recommendations to eradicate the use of solitary confinement [...].”
  • Immigration Offenders in the Federal Justice System, 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics, July, 2012“Apprehensions for immigration violations peaked at 1.8 million in 2000 but dropped to 516,992 in 2010 — the lowest level since 1972. Between 2004 and 2010, the number of Border Patrol officers nearly doubled, increasing from 10,819 to 20,558.”
  • Report of Findings: (investigation of allegations of national origin discrimination) Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, March, 2012“...AOC policy does not provide interpreters in child custody hearings; child support hearings, civil no-contact order 50C proceedings, foreclosures, and divorce proceedings”
  • Jails and Jumpsuits: Transforming the U.S. Immigration Detention System-A Two-Year Review Human Rights First, September, 2011“In July 2009, approximately 50 percent of ICE's population was held in actual correctional facilities that also housed criminal detainees.”
  • Immigration Detention and the Law U.S. Policy and Legal Framework Global Detention Project, August, 2010“The major factor driving the overall increase has been the sharp rise in individuals prosecuted for immigration offenses. Last year immigration prosecutions jumped 15.7 percent--from 79,431 during FY 2008 to 91,899 in FY 2009.”
  • Justice for Immigration's Hidden Population Protecting the Rights of Persons with Mental Disabilities in the Immigration Court and Detention System Texas Appleseed, March, 2010“Detention often exacerbates mental illness,3 separates immigrants with mental disabilities from therapeutic services and family, frequently leads to misdiagnosis, and interrupts continuity of care.”
  • Locked Up Far Away: The Transfer of Immigrants to Remote Detention Centers in the United States Human Rights Watch, December, 2009
  • The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates among Native and Foreign-Born Men American Immigration Law Foundation, February, 2007“[F]or every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are the least educated.”
  • Foreign Nationals in Michigan Prisons an examination of the costs Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, April, 2006“The Governor should appoint an independent panel to review all alien prisoners, making recommendations for commutation and culling those who are eligible for removal before serving their entire sentence. The Governor should then request their removal.”
  • Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor... A Report on Due Process Issues in the Handling of Immigration Detainees in Massachusetts Detention Working Group - Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, July, 2005
  • No Refuge Here: A First Look at Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention Stop Prisoner Rape, October, 2004
  • USA: Unaccompanied Children in Immigration Detention Amnesty International, June, 2003
  • Beyond Locked Doors: Abuse of Refugee Women at the Krome Detention Facility Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children, October, 2002
  • Immigration Offenders in the Federal Criminal Justice System, 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 2002“immigration law prosecutions double, 1996-2000”
  • Prison Guard or Parent? INS Treatment of Unaccompanied Refugee Children Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children, May, 2002
  • Innocents in Jail: INS Moves Refugee Women from Krome to Turner Guilford Knight CC, Miami Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children, June, 2001(follow-up to Behind Locked Doors)
  • Detained and Deprived of Rights: Children in the Custody of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Human Rights Watch, December, 1998
  • Protecting the Rights of Children: The Need for U.S. Children's Asylum Guidelines Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children, December, 1998
  • Locked Away: Immigration Detainees in Jails in the United States Human Rights Watch, September, 1998
  • Forgotten Prisoners: A Follow-Up Report on Refugee Women Incarcerated in York County, Pennsylvania Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children, July, 1998
  • Slipping through the cracks: Unaccompanied Children Detained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Human Rights Watch, April, 1997
  • Liberty Denied: Women Seeking Asylum Imprisoned in the United States Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children, April, 1997
  • Noncitizens in the Federal Criminal Justice System, 1984-94 Bureau of Justice Statistics, August, 1996

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