Tierrabyte: What We Know About Immigrant Detention Centers in Texas

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The Houston Contract Detention Facility, an immigration detention facility, is located at 15850 Export Plaza Dr. in Houston, Texas.

Flickr / Patrick Feller

The Houston Contract Detention Facility is one of seven immigration detention facilities in Houston.

San Antonio has seven active U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, the same number as Houston and El Paso, data shows.

The data, which was released earlier this year by ICE in response to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in June 2017, shows 184 active detention facilities in Texas. San Antonio, El Paso, and Houston have the highest concentration of such facilities.

The ICE data also indicates the number of detainees that each facility is able to hold, total detainee population as of November 2017, and average daily population counts for each facility as far back as 2012.

ICE can use public detention facilities, like county jails, to hold people entering the country while their immigration status is under review. Some facilities are operated by ICE or private contractors, while others are operated by city or county authorities. The majority of facilities in Texas are funded by ICE, the data shows.

Texas has the highest number of detention centers available to ICE of any state. California is second with 120 facilities and New York is third with 76.

Several detention centers are located along the border in Brownsville, Edinburg, Laredo, and Del Rio, and others are situated along major highway systems connecting large metropolitan areas like Houston and Dallas.

The map below shows the locations of each ICE facility in Texas named in the data set. Hover over each location to learn more about each facility, including its total capacity and total population as of November 2017.

None of the seven detention centers in Bexar County currently holds detainees, and their capacity is listed as "as needed." Out of the facilities located in Bexar County, two are equipped to detain juveniles.

One facility, referred to in the data set as "San Antonio DRO [Detention and Removal Office] Hold Room," recorded nearly 3,000 bookings in 2016.

The time detainees spend in ICE custody varies widely, with a detainee spending as long as 66 days in the Johnson County Correction Center and another staying just one day at the Val Verde Correctional Facility in Del Rio, according to data for this fiscal year, which began in November 2017. Longer court processing times may lead to overcrowded facilities, some immigrant rights organizations say.

The data also shows that the total number of noncriminal detainees has increased since 2015 in Texas from nearly 5,000 in 2015 to more than 7,000 so far in 2018. The total number of criminal detainees, those charged with a crime by ICE, has remained relatively the same – around 3,000 individuals year over year.

A handful of facilities scattered throughout the state, including those in Houston, Taylor, and Pearsall are in danger of overcrowding, the data show. But overall ICE facilities in Texas have room for more detainees, if needed. This fiscal year, which began in November 2017, 10 facilities in Texas reported exceeding 75 percent capacity. On average, the facilities that reported holding detainees as of November 2017 are at 44 percent capacity.

The center holding the most detainees in Texas this fiscal year, according to the data, is the South Texas Detention Complex located in Pearsall, about 100 miles from Laredo. The center reported an average daily population of 1,754 for the fiscal year. The facility's capacity is 1,800.

The West Texas Detention facility in Sierra Blanca, an hour and a half east of El Paso, reported an overpopulation of 9 percent this fiscal year, the only facility in Texas to exceed its capacity so far in 2018. It held 490 detainees at that time.

Some immigrant rights advocacy organizations are critical of the conditions at ICE facilities, particularly in Texas. A report released earlier this year by the Texas A&M University School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) found that detainees experienced hostile conditions at the Sierra Blanca facility.

Click here to download the data behind this story.

2 thoughts on “Tierrabyte: What We Know About Immigrant Detention Centers in Texas

  1. So is it not a crime to enter the US illegally?

    Or is it just an inherent constant in the data set that everyone on this chart has already broken a law, has already acted criminally, but those who are listed as “criminal” offenders have committed +extra crimes right?

    There is no one on your graph who hasn’t committed a crime by US law, so why is there a category for non criminal?

    Had they separated violent offenders from non violent offenders and labeled it as such, that would be totally different, but that’s not what the graph says, conflating the idea that anyone has even broken any laws in the first place.

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