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Immigration Detention: ICE Can Improve Oversight and Management

GAO-23-106350 Published: Jan 09, 2023. Publicly Released: Jan 09, 2023.
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Fast Facts

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains tens of thousands of noncitizens each year in facilities nationwide. This Snapshot highlights our previous work and actions that ICE can take to ensure that these facilities are safe, humane, and well-managed.

For example, ICE could:

  • fully analyze its facility inspections data to identify broad issues and trends
  • improve oversight of detention conditions
  • ensure that detained noncitizens consent to certain medical procedures
  • improve how it manages federal funds—e.g., by ensuring that the guaranteed minimum payments in its facility contracts are informed by strategic planning for detention needs

Noncitizens in ICE detention

Silhouettes of people standing and sitting in a cement courtyard near a fence with razor wire on top

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What GAO Found

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can take additional action to help ensure that the immigration detention system is safe, humane, and well-managed. GAO has identified areas where ICE could improve how it uses its resources and manages the detention system.

Why GAO Did This Study

ICE detains tens of thousands of noncitizens each year in facilities nation-wide. This includes individuals from many different countries who have unique personal, medical, and other needs. In fiscal year 2021, Congress appropriated around $2.8 billion for ICE to operate the immigration detention system.


GAO has made recommendations related to improving ICE's efforts and holding its facilities accountable for meeting national detention standards. ICE has addressed some of these recommendations. But as of January 2023, several of them remain unaddressed. For example, ICE inspects detention facilities for compliance with detention standards, such as whether detained individuals are receiving adequate medical care and if facilities are sufficiently clean. However, ICE does not analyze its inspection findings to identify trends in noncompliance, which makes it difficult for ICE to focus resources on the areas needing improvement. We recommended that ICE regularly analyze facility inspection data to identify and address trends.

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