Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Now Monitors About 118,000 Immigrants Through Its Alternatives to Detention Program

Austin Kocher, PhD
2 min readSep 2, 2021

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is monitoring record numbers of immigrants through its “Alternatives to Detention” programs that rely on GPS monitors, smartphone technology, and telephonic reporting to monitor immigrants awaiting the outcome of their deportation cases. According to data updated today by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse in its ‘Quick Facts’ tools, a total of 117,682 people are currently enrolled in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Alternatives to Detention program, up from about 87,000 a year ago at the end of August 2020.

For context, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Alternatives to Detention program allows the agency to monitor immigrants facing deportation using various technologies without needing to hold them inside of a detention center. The growth in the number of immigrants enrolled in Alternatives to Detention appears to reflect a larger push by the Biden administration to reduce the government’s reliance on detention, but it still only represents a fraction of the 1.4 million case backlog in the immigration courts.

Highlights from data updated today on the immigration detention system provided by show that:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement held 25,162 in ICE detention according to data released on August 24, 2021.
  • 19,832 out of 25,162 — or 78.8% — held in ICE detention have no criminal record, according to data released on August 24, 2021. Many more have only minor offenses, including traffic violations.
  • ICE relied on detention facilities in Texas to house the most people during FY 2021, according to data released on August 24, 2021.
  • ICE arrested 3,319 and CBP arrested 22,737 of the 26,056 people booked into detention by ICE during July 2021.
  • South Texas ICE Processing Center in Pearsall, Texas held the largest number of ICE detainees so far in FY 2021, averaging 800 per day (as of August 2021).
  • ICE Alternatives to Detention (ATD) programs are currently monitoring 117,682 families and single individuals, according to data released on August 24, 2021.
  • San Francisco’s area office has the highest number in ICE’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) monitoring programs, according to data released on August 24, 2021.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) is a non-partisan academic research institute at Syracuse University that studies the federal government. TRAC’s “Quick Facts” tools provide a user-friendly way to see the most updated data available on immigrant detention and the immigration courts. The tools, available online here, include easy-to-understand data in context and provide quotable descriptions.

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Austin Kocher, PhD

I study America’s immigration enforcement system. Assistant Professor at TRAC. Graduate of OSU Geography. Online at austinkocher.com.