ICE Fails to Post Detention Data in Over a Month—Again
ICE detention numbers are growing rapidly. So why won't the agency release detention data to the public as required by law?
ICE’s immigrant detention numbers have been growing in recent weeks, raising concerns about the treatment of migrants under the Biden administration and the impacts on government spending. Yet the agency refuses to follow Congress’s order to release data on a regular cycle. It has been 38 days since the public has seen ICE detention data. The agency needs to get back on track and release detention data every two weeks as required.
Congress requires Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for immigrant detention, to post data twice a month about how many people are being held in detention facilities across the country.
This data is crucial. Up-to-date and accurate detention data allows the public to understand current trends in detention. This data is also valuable for policymakers, journalists, attorneys, advocates, service providers, and researchers—all of whom use these trends as a part of their work.
After ICE published major errors in their data in late 2022, ICE had (until recently) been publishing detention data consistently and accurately through the end of August. One exception to this was an error in ATD data costs that dramatically inflated the purported cost of the alternatives to detention program, an error that TRAC caught.
Since August, however, ICE has been getting sloppy again. It took them over a month to publish detention data at the end of September, which they finally posted just hours after I wrote about the missing data.
An important note: the data that was eventually released at the end of September shortly after my post only included data through September 10, about two weeks prior to its release. That suggests that the data was ready to go and sitting on someone’s digital desk just waiting to be posted, which means that producing the data was not the problem: the problem was simply completing the final step of posting it online.
Once again, as of today (11/06/2023), it has been over a month—38 days, in fact—since the most recent ICE detention data release. The figure below shows the number of days between data releases since the beginning of the year. Notice the remarkably steady production of data throughout most of the year until the end of August.
There may be reasons why the staff responsible for producing and posting these data are busier than usual at the end of one fiscal year and the start of a new one. It might also be, like last time, that whoever is responsible for posting the data online is just sitting on an Excel file. I hope that the agency is responsive to these concerns and posts the data soon.
Whether this is resolved quickly (as I hope) or not, ICE should not be able to simply choose when and how to comply with Congress’s order to be transparent to the public about immigrant detention. The public should not have to endure delays and obfuscation to fit the conveniences of the agency.
Immigrant detention numbers have been growing in recent months and may be up to 40,000, so it is more important now than ever that ICE post these data online so we, the public, can see what the agency is doing.
Support public scholarship.
Thank you for reading. If you would like to support public scholarship and receive this newsletter in your inbox, click below to subscribe for free. If you find this information useful, consider posting it on your social media platform of choice or sharing it with your friends and colleagues.