Immigration Detention in Texas [FACT SHEET]

By Ruthie Epstein

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Texas by the Numbers
  • Detained immigrants held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in facilities in Texas: 7,985 daily (24% of the total population detained by ICE).
  • Detained immigrants held by ICE in Texas county jails: 3,000 daily.
  • Detained immigrants held by ICE in remote facilities in Texas: 3,200 daily. (See ref. 1)
 ICE Facilities in Texas
  • Two ICE-run Service Processing Centers, El Paso and Port Isabel, hold a total of 1,700 immigrants per day.
  • Two ICE-only Contract Detention Facilities, Houston and Pearsall, run by private prison companies, hold a total of 2,600 immigrants per day.
  • Two “civil” detention facilities, Karnes County and Hutto, run by private prison companies, hold a total of 685 immigrants per day. (See ref. 2)
  • 19 jails runs by counties or private prison companies hold the remaining 3,000 immigrants detained by ICE in Texas. The largest of these jails are Polk County, Rolling Plains, and East Hidalgo.
 The Facts 
  • ICE holds the overwhelming majority of the 400,000 asylum seekers and other immigrants it detains annually – under civil immigration law authority – in jails and jail-like facilities.
  • ICE has 33,400 detention beds in about 250 facilities across the country.
  • Arriving asylum seekers and many other immigrants are detained without access to individual court review of their detention.
  • ICE spends $2 billion per year on detention – 28 times its budget for alternatives to detention.
  • Detention costs taxpayers $164 per day. Alternatives cost taxpayers 30 cents to $14 per day. The pilot community-based alternatives program at Casa Marianella in Austin is a good model for the positive potential of alternatives to detention.
  • Immigrants in removal proceedings do not receive government-funded counsel. Immigration detention creates a tremendous barrier to accessing legal representation. 40% of ICE’s detention beds are in remote locations.
  • Highly regarded Legal Orientation Presentations reach just 15% of detained immigrants and 35% of detained immigrants in removal proceedings annually.
  • Non-profit legal services providers – like American Gateways, RAICES, and ProBAR – are under-resourced to meet the need.
  • Removal hearings are held via video at ICE facilities including Port Isabel, Hutto, and Rolling Plains, undermining due process for detained immigrants.
  • Budget-strapped Texas counties seek to contract with ICE in hopes of revitalizing their economies through expanded immigration detention.

1. “Remote” is used here to mean more than 60 miles from a metropolitan area, so that travel time for an attorney based in a city who has volunteered to represent an immigrant in detention would be at least two hours round trip.
2. Civil” detention facilities is used here as shorthand for facilities that offer less restrictive conditions including limited freedom of movement within a secure facility, contact visits with family and friends, more than one hour per day of outdoor access, and limited privacy in toilets and showers. Women held at Hutto do not wear uniforms, but men detained at Karnes do. See Human Rights First, Jails & Jumpsuits: Transforming the U.S. Immigration Detention System – A Two-Year Review (2011), and ABA Civil Immigration Detention Standards (2012).

Published on September 5, 2012


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