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Is ICE going to stop using privately run detention centers?

At any given time, there are thousands of undocumented immigrants being held in detention facilities scattered across the country as they fight deportation, seek asylum or simply await removal. While you would naturally think that the majority of these people are housed in federally run facilities, this is far from the case.

Indeed, statistics show that roughly 10 percent of undocumented immigrants are being held in detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, over 66 percent are being held in privately run detention centers, and the remainder are being held in state facilities or local jails.

Interestingly enough, these numbers may soon change after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson instructed his advisory council to undertake a review to determine whether it's time for the outsourcing of immigration detention to end.

Why is Secretary Johnson calling for this review?

A federal report was recently released that concluded that privately run prisons were generally less safe than those run by the federal government. In fact, the report prompted the Justice Department to announce last month that it was planning to end the practice of housing federal inmates in private prisons.

This report, coupled with longstanding complaints from immigrant advocacy groups about the conditions in private detention centers, likely spurred Secretary Johnson's review.

What's ICE's position on the use of privately run detention centers?

According to several high-ranking ICE officials, the dozens of privately run detention centers relied upon to house undocumented immigrants are not only efficient and affordable, but altogether necessary given Congress' 2009 mandate dictating that there be at least 34,000 beds available for immigrant detainees each day.

One official indicated that current ICE capacity would have to be expanded by 800 percent in order to house all people and that doing so would cost billions of dollars.

What do immigrant advocacy groups say?

Immigrant advocacy groups are largely supportive of the review given what they see as the unacceptable and deplorable conditions of most privately run detention centers.

However, they are also questioning the need for such reliance on detention centers in the first place given that the flow of undocumented immigration has slowed considerably and, perhaps more significantly, so many of the immigrants being held can be classified as low-risk. Indeed, over 50 percent of undocumented immigrants held in ICE custody do not have a criminal record.  

When will Secretary Johnson's advisory council make their recommendation?

Reports indicate that the advisory council's recommendation on the continued use of privately run detention centers is due by the end of November.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you or a loved one are being held in a detention center and are facing potential deportation, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options moving forward.

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