ICE Detention Numbers Decline, But That’s Not the Whole Story

September 28, 2021

The number of people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has continued to decline over the last several weeks and currently sits at 21,566 detainees according to data released on Thursday (9/23/2021). This is down considerably from June when more than 27,000 migrants were detained on a single day.

But that’s not the whole story.

The number of people in detention above represents the number of detainees on a single day based on whenever the agency exports the data from their database. As I wrote about recently, the decline in the total number of people in detention centers on a single day is only part of the picture. It is important to consider how long ICE is holding people in detention, and immigrants are currently being detained for much shorter periods of time and they have in quite some time. The average detention stay at the moment is about 21 days, down from almost 90 days in March 2021.

This explains why the detention numbers have dropped even though the number of migrants booked into detention centers by CBP has spiked over the past several weeks. In short, even though CBP has booked many more people into detention, migrants are also being released from detention quicker than before. Faster release is due in part to the Biden administration being under tremendous pressure from advocates to reverse many of Trump policies that made life exceptionally difficult for the undocumented community.”

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