5 Fast Facts on Federal Immigration Jails

October 24th, 2017

While the Trump administration tries (and fails) to ban certain Muslims from entering the US, the government is actively working at home to lock-up the immigrants already here.

In the last 9 months, ICE has arrested nearly 100,000 people suspected of being deportable from the United States: a 43% increase over the same period under Obama. Where are all these people going? Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been putting out feelers to privately-run jails in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Salt Lake City and Southern Texas to see if they can house 4,000 more detainees.

So far 12 detainees have died in ICE custody since Trump has taken office.

Expanding immigration jails is the obvious—and horrific—next step for an administration that has lied about and demonized immigrants at every turn.

Camille Mackler, NYIC Director of Immigration Legal Policy, is available for media interviews.

Here are five fast facts on federal immigration jails:

  1. Immigration law is civil, not criminal. So the vast majority of immigrants in these jails won't have any criminal record, or might have done their time long ago - yet are being thrown into criminal facilities anyways.
  2. Because immigration law is civil, detained immigrants are denied the rights or protections that incarcerated people should get - such as a lawyer appointed to them if they can't afford one, a speedy trial, or safety against cruel and unusual treatment.
  3. Not all immigrants are eligible for bond (immigration's version of bail). Of those that are, the minimum bond that can be given by law is $1,500, but it is rare to see bonds lower than $5,000. Most bonds are more than $10,000, even if the person has no criminal record and can show he or she has strong ties to his or her community.
  4. There is no requirement that the correction officers working in these facilities have language competency, so many detainees can't even communicate about basic needs or health emergencies.
  5. The Trump administration has already stated that they won't require that new facilities follow even the minimum standards followed by older facilities. So those detained in these facilities may be locked up in facilities that won't meet basic standards of humanity and habitability, like access to open space.


The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State. We envision a New York state that is stronger because all people are welcome, treated fairly, and given the chance to pursue their dreams. Our mission is to unite immigrants, members, & allies so all New Yorkers can thrive. We represent the collective interests of New York's diverse immigrant communities and organizations and devise solutions to advance them; advocate for laws, policies, and programs that lead to justice and opportunity for all immigrant groups; and build the power of immigrants and the organizations that serve them to ensure their sustainability, to improve people's lives, and to strengthen our state.