Members of the #DefundHate Coalition Demand ICE Accountability for Massive Increase in Immigrant Detention

For Immediate Release: Monday, February 11, 2019

Washington, DC — Amidst delicate negotiations in Congress over funding, ICE continues to rapidly increase the number of people it is locking up in its prison system, now standing at an astonishing 48,747 people per day, up more than 40 percent since Trump came into office. Members of Congress are checking ICE’s pattern of growth with a proposed detention cap, which attempts to prevent the Administration from circumventing the Congressional appropriations process by raiding other government accounts to expand immigration detention. 

“The Administration is willing to risk another destructive government shut-down rather than be forced to adhere to baseline good governance,” said Heidi Altman, Director of Policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Neither a government shutdown nor high-level spending negotiations stopped this administration from ballooning its jail capacity by thousands in just a matter of months — from 45,422 people detained on November 30th to today’s skyrocketing high of 48,747people — Congress must hold them accountable.”

These shocking numbers result in increased abuse and death in detention, as ICE operates in secrecy and lacks accountability — a violent culture that has only been emboldened under Trump’s helm. Adding to the impact, is the timing.

“While government workers and contractors suffered without paychecks and families were without the crucial government services they depend on, ICE continued to ramp up their targeting of immigrant families and overspend taxpayer dollars,” said Mary Small, Policy Director of Detention Watch Network. “Much like Trump’s continual threat of a politically-motivated national emergency, the relentless expansion by ICE shows the alarming degree to which the agency believes it answers to no one and can set its own policy and funding without any consideration for the other branches of government.”

ICE has appropriated funding to detain 40,500 people per day—already a huge increase over the 34,000 people per day in detention funded just two years ago.

“This brazen expansion suggests that ICE is yet again planning to raid other accounts within DHS—just as they took money from FEMA right as the East Coast headed into hurricane season last year,” added Small. “This wasn’t a one-off strategy, but rather a forward-looking plan by an agency unwilling to accept any limitations on its metastasizing growth.”

Members must denounce ICE’s massive detention expansion spree and unrelenting anti-immigrant agenda at large.

“The ongoing negotiations in Congress can hardly be considered good faith when a key agency involved has decided that they aren’t beholden to Congressional decision-making or oversight,” concluded Altman. 


Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit