Transfers of ICE Detainees from the
Houston Field Office Holding Room
Houston, Texas

Detainees Transferred
Number last 12 months 6,371
Out of total detained 8,603
Percent change:
from previous 12 months 241 %
from FY 2005 -
from FY 2000 -
Facility ranking on transfers top 3 %

Table 1: Transfers

During the most recent 12 month period for which data are available, a total of 6,371 detainees were transferred by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from the Houston Field Office Holding Room where they had been temporarily housed to other facilities. The average stay for these individuals before their transfer was less than a day. This is a special ICE holding area or staging location that under current ICE detention standards is allowed to temporarily house aliens for up to 12 or 16 hours. These types of units generally have no sleeping quarters or shower facilities.

Transfers made up 74 percent of the 8,603 detainees who in one way or another left this facility during the last 12 months. This report focuses just on these transfers. The remaining 26 percent of individuals who departed from the Houston Field Office Holding Room last year actually left ICE detention. These individuals were deported from the country, released under supervision while their cases was being decided, or left ICE detention for a variety of other reasons. For more information on this facility please see additional TRAC reports in this series.

This report series is based upon analyses conducted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University of 3.4 million government records tracking each individual who passed through an ICE detention facility during the past decade. The most recent 12 month period for which comprehensive data are available is for April 2007 through March 2008. See About the Data.

How This Facility Ranks Nationally

Detainee transfer rankings. The Houston Field Office Holding Room was one of 1,528 facilities that were used to house immigration detainees during the last decade, and one of 654 facilities nationwide that housed ICE detainees during the most recent 12 month period. Of these 654, there were 403 facilities that had at least 10 ICE detainee transfers last year. Excluding those facilities with fewer than 10 transfers, the Houston Field Office Holding Room last year ranked in the top 3 percent nationwide in the number of individuals it transferred to other ICE facilities. This means that 3 percent of the locations contributed the same or a larger numbers of transfers, while 97 percent had a smaller number. See Table 1.

Average length of stay before transfer. Once detainees arrived at the Houston Field Office Holding Room their average length of stay before being transferred on to another ICE facility was less than a day last year. Ranking facilities from longest to shortest detention stays for their transfer population, this average of less than a day placed Houston Field Office Holding Room in the top 98 percent of all facilities nationwide. That is, for detainees who are transferred, 98 percent of ICE detention facilities have the same or longer average stays last year, while 2 percent of detention facilities had shorter average stays.

Trends in the Number of Detainees Transferred

Transfers last year. When the ICE detainee transfers during the April 2007-March 2008 period were compared with those in the previous 12 months, the Houston Field Office Holding Room numbers were sharply up by 241 percent. During the previous April 2006-March 2007 period the facility processed 1,866 transfers as compared with 6,371 last year.

Bar chart of fymondt

Figure 1: Month-by-month detainee transfers from this facility

Longer term transfer trends. Greater detail on these long-term trends in ICE transfers from the Houston Field Office Holding Room are displayed in Figure 1. Here the month-by-month number of transfers are graphed against the backdrop of the total detainees leaving the custody of this facility. Transfers are displayed with darker shading while those deported or released appear with lighter shading. As is readily apparent, considerable variation has occurred over time in both the overall numbers of detainees as well as the volume of transfers during this period.

Fiscal Year ICE Detainees
Total Transfers Percent
1999 0 0 -
2000 0 0 -
2001 0 0 -
2002 0 0 -
2003 0 0 -
2004 2 0 0 %
2005 0 0 -
2006 70 25 36 %
2007 6,660 3,903 59 %
2008 (est) 11,014 9,780 89 %

Table 2: Detainee transfers from this facility over the last decade

Transfer trends for the last decade are summarized by fiscal year in Table 2. Year-by-year figures for the Houston Field Office Holding Room are given for the total number of detainees as compared with the number transferred from the facility. The percent of detainees that end up being transferred from the facility is also given. (As mentioned above, the remaining detainees end up deported, released under supervision, or leave ICE detention for some other reason.) Because data for all twelve months of the most recent fiscal year are not yet available, the FY 2008 numbers (October 2007 through September 2008) are estimated based upon reporting for the first six months.

Origins and Destinations

Were these detainees arrested locally? Where did those that ended up being transferred from the Houston Field Office Holding Room last year originate? Information on the place of arrest was not included in the available data ICE released. However, we can examine whether the Houston Field Office Holding Room was the first ICE facility in which these detainees were held. According to ICE records, for the vast majority (96 percent) of these detainees, the Houston Field Office Holding Room was the first place they were sent when they were detained by ICE. The remaining 4 percent had been transferred in from another ICE detention facility.

We can also look at how quickly they arrived at this facility after they were first detained. A total of 97 percent arrived at the Houston Field Office Holding Room at some point during the very first day they were detained by ICE. This percentage is also based on an analysis of the most recent 12 months for which data are available.

How soon did transfers occur? Nationally, the median number of days before an ICE detainee is transferred to another facility was 3 days last year. That means that half of all transfers occurred on or before the third day, while half had longer stays before they were transferred on to another ICE facility. Note that nationally the average stay at an ICE detention facility before an individual is transferred is substantially longer - 18 days. This is because while most detainees have relatively short stays before ICE transfers them elsewhere, sometimes stays are lengthy and these lengthy stays raise the average to above the median stay of 3 days.

For the Houston Field Office Holding Room last year, the median stay before a detainee was transferred was less than a day. This is less than the national figure. The average stay before transfers occurred was the same - less than a day - than the median stay. As noted above, this figure placed the facility in the top 98 percent among ICE detention facilities nationwide in the average number of days a detainee spent before he or she was transferred.

Pie chart of diffDCO

Figure 2: Transfer destinations during last 12 months

Where did those transferred get sent? ICE currently has great discretion about where in the United States transferred detainees are sent. For the period covered by these data, ICE divided the country into geographic regions or areas and assigned each to one of 56 document control offices or DCOs for the purpose of keeping track of detainees. Available data allow us to examine whether the transfer occurred within the same DCO or the transfer was to a different DCO. For the nation as a whole during the latest 12 months, about six out of ten transfers (59 percent) were within the same DCO, while the remaining four out of ten (41 percent) were to a different DCO.

Transfers Facility Profile U.S Overall
Profile (%)
Number Percent
Within region (DCO) 6,239 98% 59%
Outside region (DCO) 132 2.1% 41%
Total 6,371 100% 100%

Table 3: Transfer destinations during last 12 months

Figure 2 and accompanying Table 3 provide some comparative figures for how the Houston Field Office Holding Room stacks up against this national pattern. Last year, 98 percent of the transfers from the Houston Field Office Holding Room were to locations in the same region -- facilities under the control of same ICE docket control office. Only a few of the transfers went to detention facilities in a different region (DCO).


Which nationalities predominate? Last year in the United States, individuals from Mexico comprised the largest number of those transferred by ICE. Some 37 percent of all transfers recorded Mexico as their country of origin. The Houston Field Office Holding Room had a much larger proportion of detainees from Mexico - 68 percent - among their transfers. Detainees from Mexico were also the largest single nationality group among the transfers at the facility.

Nationalities Ranked in Top 10 Transfers
Total To Diff. DCO % Diff DCO
- ALL 6,371 132 2.1 %
1 Mexico 4,340 53 1.2 %
2 El Salvador 636 12 1.9 %
3 Honduras 582 43 7.4 %
4 Guatemala 314 11 3.5 %
5 Colombia 61 0 0.0 %
6 Nicaragua 37 12 32.4 %
7 Nigeria 35 0 0.0 %
8 Vietnam 34 0 0.0 %
9 Cuba 26 0 0.0 %
10 Pakistan 21 0 0.0 %

Table 4: Transfers by nationality during the last 12 months

In descending order, the other top nationalities after Mexico that made up transfers from the Houston Field Office Holding Room last year were: El Salvador (10%), Honduras (9%), Guatemala (5%) and Colombia (1%).

For the frequency for each of the nationalities within the top 10 among transfers from the Houston Field Office Holding Room last year see Table 4.

Pie chart of nat

Figure 3: Transfers by nationality

Out-of-region transfers by nationality. Within the nationalities that made up those listed in Table 4, the proportion transferred out of the region varied from 0 percent to 32 percent. As mentioned above, on average 2 percent of detainees transferred from the Houston Field Office Holding Room were sent to detention locations outside the region.

For Nicaragua with a total of 37 transfers, 32 percent of transfers were out-of-region transfers. More than one country was tied with the lowest out-of-region transfer rates (see Table 4).

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