Transfers of ICE Detainees from the
Southwest Key - Houston
Houston, Texas

Detainees Transferred
Number last 12 months 50
Out of total detained 175
Percent change:
from previous 12 months 43 %
from FY 2005 16 %
from FY 2000 -
Facility ranking on transfers top 70 %

Table 1: Transfers

During the most recent 12 month period for which data are available, a total of 50 detainees were transferred by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from the Southwest Key - Houston where they had been temporarily housed to other facilities. The average stay for these individuals before their transfer was 51 days. This is a special facility for housing juveniles. Use of this facility was handled by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), Division of Unaccompanied Children's Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Transfers made up 29 percent of the 175 detainees who in one way or another left this facility during the last 12 months. This report focuses just on these transfers. The remaining 71 percent of individuals who departed from the Southwest Key - Houston 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 Southwest Key - Houston 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 Southwest Key - Houston last year ranked in the top 70 percent nationwide in the number of individuals it transferred to other ICE facilities. This means that 70 percent of the locations contributed the same or a larger numbers of transfers, while 30 percent had a smaller number. See Table 1.

Average length of stay before transfer. Once detainees arrived at the Southwest Key - Houston their average length of stay before being transferred on to another ICE facility was 51 days last year. Ranking facilities from longest to shortest detention stays for their transfer population, this average of 51 days placed Southwest Key - Houston in the top 6 percent of all facilities nationwide. That is, for detainees who are transferred, 6 percent of ICE detention facilities have the same or longer average stays last year, while 94 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 Southwest Key - Houston numbers were up by 43 percent. During the previous April 2006-March 2007 period the facility processed 35 transfers as compared with 50 last year. As detailed in Table 1, transfers last year were also up by 16 percent as compared with the number of transfers (43) 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 Southwest Key - Houston 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 58 10 17 %
2004 131 32 24 %
2005 173 43 25 %
2006 165 35 21 %
2007 155 41 26 %
2008 (est) 164 46 28 %

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 Southwest Key - Houston 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 Southwest Key - Houston last year originate? Information on the place of arrest was not included in the available data ICE released. However, we can examine whether the Southwest Key - Houston was the first ICE facility in which these detainees were held. According to ICE records, for the majority (50 percent) of these detainees, the Southwest Key - Houston was the first place they were sent when they were detained by ICE. The remaining 50 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 54 percent arrived at the Southwest Key - Houston 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 Southwest Key - Houston last year, the median stay before a detainee was transferred was 30 days. This is much longer than the national figure. The average stay before transfers occurred was longer - 51 days - than the median stay. As noted above, this figure placed the facility in the top 6 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) 25 50% 59%
Outside region (DCO) 25 50% 41%
Total 50 100% 100%

Table 3: Transfer destinations during last 12 months

Figure 2 and accompanying Table 3 provide some comparative figures for how the Southwest Key - Houston stacks up against this national pattern. Last year, 50 percent of the transfers from the Southwest Key - Houston were to locations in the same region -- facilities under the control of same ICE docket control office. The majority (50 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 Southwest Key - Houston 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 50 25 50.0 %
1 Honduras 24 13 54.2 %
2 Guatemala 10 4 40.0 %
3 Mexico 6 3 50.0 %
4 El Salvador 5 3 60.0 %
5 Belize 1 0 0.0 %
Brazil 1 1 100.0 %
Costa Rica 1 0 0.0 %
Jamaica 1 1 100.0 %
Nicaragua 1 0 0.0 %

Table 4: Transfers by nationality during the last 12 months

In descending order, the top nationalities that made up transfers from the Southwest Key - Houston last year were: Honduras (48%) , Guatemala (20%), Mexico (12%), El Salvador (10%), Belize (2%), Brazil (2%), Costa Rica (2%), Jamaica (2%) and Nicaragua (2%).

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 100 percent. As mentioned above, on average 50 percent of detainees transferred from the Southwest Key - Houston were sent to detention locations outside the region.

More than one country was tied with the highest out-of-region transfer rates of 100 percent (see Table 4). More than one country was tied with the lowest out-of-region transfer rates (see Table 4).

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