Reasons for Departures from ICE Detention

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has drawn upon a variety of data sources, combining the records we received as result of our FOIA requests and other efforts with approximately 3.4 million records obtained by Human Rights Watch through its independent FOIA request. Most of the data are drawn from the Department of Homeland Security's ENFORCE tracking system. (This information was formerly part of Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Deportable Alien Control System or DACS.) The data, organized by detention facility, include specific information on the date an individual was booked into a facility, the date the individual was booked out of that facility, a code for the reason he or she left the facility, and information on gender and nationality. For additional information see Background to this Research.

Detainees leaving ICE detention do so for the following reasons:

Deportation. The most common reason detainees leave ICE detention is usually that they get deported (ICE data does not distinguish between deportations and removals, and the terms are used interchangeably in TRAC's reports.)

Voluntary departure. Under some circumstances, detainees are allowed to take "voluntary departure." As with deportation, under voluntary departure a person must leave the country. However, unlike formal deportation where the individual is barred by law from reentering this country permanently or for a period of years, under voluntary departure the individual is not legally barred from reentry.

Bonded out. This generally covers situations where the individual posts a bond and is released while awaiting a decision on their deportation (removal) case. The amount of the bond is set by ICE, or by an Immigration Judge. Many individuals are not eligible to be released because their continued detention is considered mandatory under provisions in the immigration laws.

Orders. Orders are additional mechanisms that are sometimes used to release a person while their case is pending, or awaiting removal. Under an "order of recognizance" an individual is released with reporting conditions while in deportation proceedings and awaiting a final decision. A second type of order ("order of supervision") releases an individual after a final order of removal. Here an individual is released because ICE has not met the time limits the law imposes for deporting the individual.

Transferred to criminal custody. Detainees might leave a facility because they are turned over to U.S. Marshals or to some other government agency. This typically occurs because there is an outstanding criminal case against the individual, or the individual is needed as a material witness in a criminal case.

Withdraw entry request. Individuals might leave ICE detention because were allowed to "withdraw" their request to enter the United States. If a person withdraws their request, this effectively means they must leave the country. Unlike deportation where the person is legally barred for a period of years and sometimes permanently from coming back to the United States, a person who withdraws their request is not for that reason barred from re-entry into this country.

Parole. ICE also has discretionary authority to "parole" individuals and give them temporary entry into the country, often on humanitarian grounds. Individuals with serious medical conditions, pregnant women, and certain juveniles are among the categories considered. Other categories are individuals who will serve as witnesses in judicial or administrative proceedings, and individuals whose parole is considered by ICE in the "public interest."

No legitimate grounds to deport. Sometimes individuals leave ICE detention because they "win" their case. Typically this occurs when an Immigration Judge orders the deportation proceedings ICE has filed against them "terminated" (dismissed) and the judge's order after any appeals becomes final. In these cases, a determination is made that there are no grounds to deport the individuals and thus ICE has to release them from custody.

Escape and death. Sometimes individuals escape ICE detention, while others might even die in ICE detention.