Transfers of ICE Detainees from the
Harlingen Staging Facility
Harlingen, Texas

Detainees Transferred
Number last 12 months 29,173
Out of total detained 30,070
Percent change:
from previous 12 months 21 %
from FY 2005 404 %
from FY 2000 -
Facility ranking on transfers top 1 %

Table 1: Transfers

During the most recent 12 month period for which data are available, a total of 29,173 detainees were transferred by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from the Harlingen Staging Facility 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 97 percent of the 30,070 detainees who in one way or another left this facility during the last 12 months. This report focuses just on these transfers. The remaining 3 percent of individuals who departed from the Harlingen Staging Facility 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 Harlingen Staging Facility 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 Harlingen Staging Facility last year ranked in the top 1 percent nationwide in the number of individuals it transferred to other ICE facilities. This means that 1 percent of the locations contributed the same or a larger numbers of transfers, while 99 percent had a smaller number. See Table 1.

Average length of stay before transfer. Once detainees arrived at the Harlingen Staging Facility 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 Harlingen Staging Facility in the top 97 percent of all facilities nationwide. That is, for detainees who are transferred, 97 percent of ICE detention facilities have the same or longer average stays last year, while 3 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 Harlingen Staging Facility numbers were up by 21 percent. During the previous April 2006-March 2007 period the facility processed 24,179 transfers as compared with 29,173 last year. As detailed in Table 1, transfers last year were also greatly as compared with the number of transfers (5,788) during FY 2005.

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 Harlingen Staging Facility 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 0 0 -
2005 6,315 5,788 92 %
2006 16,974 16,385 97 %
2007 28,498 27,647 97 %
2008 (est) 35,532 34,522 97 %

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 Harlingen Staging Facility 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 Harlingen Staging Facility last year originate? Information on the place of arrest was not included in the available data ICE released. However, we can examine whether the Harlingen Staging Facility was the first ICE facility in which these detainees were held. According to ICE records, for the majority (62 percent) of these detainees, the Harlingen Staging Facility was the first place they were sent when they were detained by ICE. The remaining 38 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. Again, a total of 62 percent arrived at the Harlingen Staging Facility 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 Harlingen Staging Facility 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 97 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) 16,997 58% 59%
Outside region (DCO) 12,176 42% 41%
Total 29,173 100% 100%

Table 3: Transfer destinations during last 12 months

Figure 2 and accompanying Table 3 provide some comparative figures for how the Harlingen Staging Facility stacks up against this national pattern. Last year, 58 percent of the transfers from the Harlingen Staging Facility were to locations in the same region -- facilities under the control of same ICE docket control office. A substantial proportion (42 percent) 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 Harlingen Staging Facility had a much smaller proportion of detainees from Mexico - 12 percent - among their transfers. Detainees from Mexico were also not the largest single nationality group among the transfers at the facility.

Nationalities Ranked in Top 10 Transfers
Total To Diff. DCO % Diff DCO
- ALL 29,173 12,176 41.7 %
1 El Salvador 8,352 3,598 43.1 %
2 Honduras 7,735 3,741 48.4 %
3 Guatemala 4,415 1,854 42.0 %
4 Mexico 3,437 1,032 30.0 %
5 Nicaragua 970 333 34.3 %
6 Brazil 816 385 47.2 %
7 China 469 231 49.3 %
8 Dominican Republic 429 170 39.6 %
9 Ecuador 415 140 33.7 %
10 Colombia 228 83 36.4 %

Table 4: Transfers by nationality during the last 12 months

In descending order, the top nationalities that made up transfers from the Harlingen Staging Facility last year were: El Salvador (29%) , Honduras (27%), Guatemala (15%), Mexico (12%) and Nicaragua (3%).

For the frequency for each of the nationalities within the top 10 among transfers from the Harlingen Staging Facility 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 30 percent to 49 percent. As mentioned above, on average 42 percent of detainees transferred from the Harlingen Staging Facility were sent to detention locations outside the region.

For China with a total of 469 transfers, 49 percent of transfers were out-of-region transfers. At the other end of the range, 30 percent were out-of-region transfers for the 3,437 transfers from Mexico.

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