The number of migrants sitting behind barbed wire appears to have dropped in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, but DHS’s reporting has become so opaque that it is hard to be sure. For years, I have tracked ICE’s civil immigration detention population using annual reports issued by DHS. Those reports were posted on the DHS website for anyone with an internet connection to download and read. I regularly did so and often wrote about these trends in my scholarly articles as well as here on crimmigration.com. That has not been the case with immigration detention statistics for fiscal years 2014 or 2015. Though I have looked many times, I have failed to find data compiled by the federal government about the number of migrants it locked up in FY 14 and 15 while waiting to learn whether they would be allowed to remain in the United States.
My frustration changed this week. While doing other research, I stumbled on a draft of the Fiscal Year 2014 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report. That document, available here, reveals that ICE detained 425,478 migrants in FY 14. Id. at 8. On average, it held 33,227 people per day (called the “average daily population” or ADP). Id. at 9. The average length of stay reported was 29.6 days. Of the total number detained that year, 189,104 had a conviction on their record; the remaining 236,624 did not. In other words, 55.6% of migrants detained in FY 14 had no criminal record. The report contains no information on the kinds of crimes that appeared on the records of the 44.4% of detainees who had been convicted of something.
ICE Detainees By Criminal History (FY 2014)
Separately, the Justice Department provided a glimpse into ICE’s detention population during FY 15 in its lengthy report on solitary confinement released earlier this week. In its review of ICE’s solitary confinement practices, the Justice Department reported that ICE detained 307,310 migrants in FY 15 with an average daily population of 28,168 and an average length of stay of 34.4 days. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing 88 & n.33 (January 2016).
An important caveat is in order about 2014. The FY 14 Enforcement and Removal Operations Report from which I gleaned information about the immigration detention population in 2014 is merely a draft. The final report that is available on the ICE website does not include any data on detention. Interestingly, the rest of the report is largely the same. Major sections that appear in the draft appear in the final version. Key data reported in the draft appears identically in the final report. Except when it comes to detention. It would be premature for me to speculate about why, but I find it distressing that ICE excised valuable information about its remarkably large and undeniably important detention authority before releasing the report on its website. Given ICE’s failure to adequately oversee immigration detention centers, it would be helpful if, at the very least, they were transparent about the number of people held in their custody.
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