ICE Starts 2023 With 20,506 Immigrants in Detention, ICE Still Can't Find ATD Records
(09 Jan 2023) The federal government's use of immigrant detention fluctuated throughout 2022 without maintaining a clear increase or decrease according to data released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the end of the calendar year.

The number of immigrants booked into immigrant detention facilities by Customs and Border Protection initially grew during the first several months of the Biden administration, from less than 10,000 per month to over 30,000 per month. But from a high of 33,044 book-ins in August 2021, the number of book-in has declined as a general trend to 17,559 in December 2022.

However, the number of immigrants in detention at a single time actually grew over 2022, from slightly more than 22,068 on January 2, 2022 to 30,001 on November 20, 2022, before falling quickly to 20,506 on January 1, 2023. Fluctuations in immigrant detention data are driven by a wide variety of factors, including current agency policies, the number of people arriving at the border, and the availability of beds in detention centers.

The number of people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Alternative to Detention (ATD) program also appears to have declined—although very slightly—for the first time since the start of the Biden administration, from 377,980 on December 17 to 376,030 on December 31, 2022. Although not necessarily an indication of a broader downward trend in ATD, these data do raise questions about whether ICE will be able to maintain the pace of growth of the ATD program indefinitely.

It is also plausible, based on ICE's recent significant issues with data mismanagement within the ATD program (as TRAC noted here and here), that these data may not represent an accurate picture of the program. The agency has not yet responded to TRAC's request for corrected ATD data. Even more concerning, ICE recently responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from TRAC by saying that the agency could not locate any records at all for any individuals in its Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program. This follows quickly on the heels of ICE's similarly troubling response in December, when that the agency say it could not find any ATD records then, either. See the agency's latest response to TRAC here.

Highlights from other detention data ICE released this week show that:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement held 20,506 in ICE detention according to data current as of January 1, 2023.
  • 11,217 out of 20,506—or 54.7%—held in ICE detention have no criminal record, according to data current as of January 1, 2023. Many more have only minor offenses, including traffic violations.
  • ICE relied on detention facilities in Texas to house the most people during FY 2023, according to data current as of December 27, 2022.
  • ICE arrested 5,939 and CBP arrested 11,620 of the 17,559 people booked into detention by ICE during December 2022.
  • South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas held the largest number of ICE detainees so far in FY 2023, averaging 1,565 per day (as of December 2022).
  • ICE Alternatives to Detention (ATD) programs are currently monitoring 376,031 families and single individuals, according to data current as of December 31, 2022.
  • Harlingen's area office has highest number in ICE's Alternatives to Detention (ATD) monitoring programs, according to data current as of December 31, 2022.

For more information, see TRAC's Quick Facts tools here or click here to learn more about TRAC's entire suite of immigration tools.

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