The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says 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.
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 notes in its snapshot that its previous work has pointed to 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.
GAO has previously made several recommendations related to improving ICE’s efforts and holding its facilities accountable for meeting national detention standards. Now, GAO says that 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. GAO is therefore recommending that ICE regularly analyze facility inspection data to identify and address trends.