The number of individuals held in custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the just-ended FY 2009 is now estimated to have reached 369,483 detainees, more than twice what the total was in FY 1999. According to a recent agency report, this growth means that ICE is now operating the largest detention system in the country.
As the number of detainees has grown, the agency–at least until recently–has not sought to balance where it located new detention beds with where the individuals were apprehended. Instead ICE has adopted a free-wheeling transfer policy to deal with the resulting imbalances. Under this policy, ICE transports detainees from their point of initial ICE detention to many different locations–often over long distances and frequently to remote locations.
The broad finding that has emerged from an analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of millions of ICE records and other information is that–as a result of these ICE policy decisions–the number of detainees that ICE has transferred each year has grown much more rapidly than the already surging population held in custody by the agency. Here are the details: