The Landscape of Immigration Detention in the United States

Emily Ryo & Ian Peacock
Date of Publication: 
December, 2018
Source Organization: 
American Immigration Council

The Landscape of Immigration Detention in the United States presents findings from an empirical analysis of immigration detention across the United States. The authors analyze government and other data on the 355,729 individuals who were detained during fiscal year 2015. The average daily detention rate was 33,200 during the year, up more than five-fold from the 6,785 rate in 1994. The vast majority of these individuals (89 percent) were from Mexico or the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). Detained individuals were held in 638 detention facilities scattered across the country, but mostly in remote locations far away from legal and community support networks. Most of these facilities were jails or prisons operated by state or local governments, or private facilities operated by for-profit correctional companies. There appears to be much movement of detainees between facilities creating challenges and frustration for family members. About 54 percent of the 261,020 individuals released from detention during the year experienced at least one transfer, often from one city or state to another. The average length of detention (mean) was about 38 days. The authors observe that “privately operated facilities and remotely located facilities require special scrutiny, given that placement in these types of facilities is associated with longer detention length and higher volume of grievances.” (American Immigrant Policy Portal)

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Emily Ryo, E. & Peacock, I. (2018). Landscape of Immigration Detention in the United States. American Immigration Council. Retrieved from