The Real Costs, Consequences, and Human Face of Immigration Detention

The current U.S. immigration detention systemlacks clear objectives, encourages the needless confinement of individuals, overburdens an already strained immigration system, and wastes resources

The majority of immigrant detainees are held in bed space that ICE rents from state and local jails and private corporations. The 2011 ICE detention standards that are in place to guide operation of these facilities are not binding regulations and have not been applied to many of the state and local jails and private detention facilities under contract with ICE.

Without the threat of sanctions, compliance with these standards has been low and violations of these standards are pervasive.

Recent reports indicate that the unchecked growth in immigration detention over the past decade has resulted in inhuman treatment, sub-standard health care, physical and sexual abuse, and overcrowding.

The Costs: Human and Monetary

The current misuse of mandatory and prolonged detention practices encourages arbitrary confinement and denies the detainees the most basic elements of due process.

This arbitrary and needless confinement causes unnecessary suffering for the individuals, their families, and the community. In particular, studies show that detention and deportation of parents significantly impacts children’s physical and emotional health, as well as their intellectual and social development. A recent report estimates that there are more than 5,100 children currently in foster care whose immigrant parents have either been deported or detained.

The increasing use of immigration detention is also an unnecessary drain on government resources and taxpayer dollars.

The Incarceration of People for Profit

Theprivate prison industry, not the American public, is themain beneficiaryof the ever-expanding, unregulated immigration detention system in the U.S.

The private prison industry is committed to generating money for its investors. As a result it feeds off of government policies that keep more people behind bars for longer periods of time and has incentives to cut corners.

Private immigration detention facilities are particularly ripe for abuse, because there is little federal oversight to ensure that applicable standards are enforced.

Georgia houses three privately run immigration detention facilities:

Alternatives to Detention

In light of the costs and devastating effects this system has had over the years, it is critical that ICE only use immigration detention when necessary.

Alternatives to Detention Programs (ATD) generally provide for the release of individuals from detention with additional supervisory measures, such as in-person reporting or reporting by phone, to monitor the individual after release. DHS’s pilot programs for ATDs achieved an appearance rate of 94%, far in excess of the targeted 58%.

ATD programs cost, on average, $8.88/day per individual, which is about $157.00/day less than what it costs to detain individuals. DHS itself states: “ATD is a cost-effective alternative to secure detention of aliens in removal proceedings.”

Additional Resources

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, read the ACLU of Georgia's recent publication Prisoners of Profit. You can download the publication by clicking on the photo below.