New Report: Financial Market for Immigrant Detention Exposed

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Report Explores Widespread Use of Local Guaranteed Minimum Contracts in Detaining Immigrants in LA, Phoenix, Houston, Miami, San Antonio, San Diego, and More

June 11, 2015, Washington, D.C. –A new report, “Banking on Detention: Local Lockup Quotas and the Immigrant Dragnet” released today by Detention Watch Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights explores and exposes the depth of local lockup quotas in immigrant detention across 15 facilities in half of ICE’s field offices under the Obama administration.

Major areas with local quotas include: Los Angeles, San Antonio, Phoenix, Miami, Seattle, Houston, San Diego, Buffalo, New Orleans, and Newark.

“For the federal government to contractually guarantee a certain number of immigrant detainees per day violates best practices in law enforcement and is an affront to our entire conception of justice in America,” said Congressman Ted Deutch. “Detention Watch Network’s latest research details how the misguided federal detention bed mandate is spawning a rise of new bed quotas at the local level, which have profound implications for our communities. Having a daily detainee quota increases the likelihood that an undocumented mother waits for months for her day in court from a detention facility when a supervised release could keep her family together at a fraction of the cost to the taxpayer.”

“The detention of immigrants has become big business and a source of profit, yet comes with a significant moral and financial cost for everyone involved,” said Silky Shah, Co-Director of Detention Watch Network. “Local quotas with private contractors and the infrastructure of detention itself have driven this market: all at a huge expense to families detained arbitrarily and to taxpayers footing the bill.”

“Local lockup quotas depend on a lack of government transparency about how these contractual arrangements deprive individuals of liberty," said Ghita Schwarz, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “These contracts provide incentives not only to detain large numbers of immigrants, but also to detain them in specific facilities, no matter how far they are from an individual's community. When immigrants are detained far from home in order to serve a local lockup quota, they lose access to families, attorneys, and resources that could help them fight their detention or deportation.”

Top lines from the report:

  • By requiring ICE to fill a certain number of detention beds on a daily basis at specific facilities, the U.S. government is allowing private interests a hand in setting policy on immigration enforcement and detention, while at the same time padding their bottom line.
  • Guaranteed minimums predate the national quota’s inception and have existed at least since 2003. Guaranteed minimums exist in 12 ICE field offices, half of ICE field offices across the country, and account for a quota of more than 8,500 individuals combined.
  • The guaranteed minimum at the ICE field office in San Antonio is the highest of any in the country at more than 2,000 individuals.
  • GEO Group has been the most successful company in getting guaranteed minimums incorporated into their contracts.  As such, GEO Group facilities may be prioritized in order to fill local quotas.

See the executive summary here.

See the full report here.

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Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.


The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Last modified 

June 11, 2015