It's Elementary: The Cost of Immigration Detention Doesn't Add Up

This week, National Immigration Forum posted their report, The Math of Immigration Detention: Runaway Costs for Immigration Detention Do Not Add Up to Sensible Policies, examining the cost to taxpayers of detaining immigrants, the majority of whom have no criminal record.  Additionally, the report highlights how the private for-profit prison industry stands to gain the most from the growing number of immigrants in detention facilities.   

The report paints a clear picture of the exorbitant amount of money the federal government continues to spend on detaining hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year, while funding allocated for alternatives to detention, which would keep immigrants in their communities with their families, remains dwarfed in comparison to detention.  

Today, we’re shining the Humpday Hall of Shame spotlight on our nation’s leaders who continue to line their pockets with campaign contributions from private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, continue to push for increased detention of immigrants, and continue to allow billions of taxpayer dollars to flow into an industry that has built a fortune on caging human beings.

For all the facts and figures on immigration detention, check out the full report here!  But, in case you need nudging, here a few points we hope will compel you:

  • For the Fiscal Year that begins October 1, 2013 (Fiscal year 2014), Department of Homeland Security and the White House requested $1.84 billion for DHS Custody Operations = over $5 million per day spent on immigration detention.

  • From 2001 to 2011 the total number of immigrants who pass through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention per year rose from 204,459 individuals in 2001, to a record breaking 429,247 individuals in FY 2011.

  • Between 2009 and 2011, over half of all immigrant detainees had no criminal records. Of those with any criminal history, nearly 20 percent were merely for traffic offenses.

  • Private prison companies in 2011 housed nearly half of all immigration detainees, and in FY 2012 CCA and GEO reported annual revenues of $1.8 billion and $1.5 billion respectively.  

  • According to the Associated Press, the three corporations holding the largest percentage of ICE detention contracts, including CCA and GEO, collectively spent at least $45 million in the past decade on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal levels.


The message is simple.  Our current immigration detention system serves private prison corporations and their shareholders NOT families, communities, or the public good.