Where Are Immigrants with Immigration Court Cases Being Detained?

Nearly two out of every three immigrants who have been detained during Immigration Court proceedings during the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations were housed in just twenty-five counties out of the over three thousand counties in this country. This and other findings emerge from TRAC's newly expanded online tool which provides Immigration Court details based on the immigrant's address recorded in court records.

Among these top 25 counties, Texas tops the list with 200,719 detainees in total who were housed across 6 counties, followed by California with 165,367 detainees who have been held at facilities in 4 counties. Together these 10 counties in just two states accounted for three out of every 10 detained immigrants since FY 2001. These counts include only immigrants who were detained until the court proceedings on their case ended, and excludes detainees who were originally detained but then subsequently released[1].

Los Angeles County, California with its Mira Loma Detention Facility (and San Pedro) accounted for the largest number of detainees among all counties in the United States. It was followed by Stewart County, Georgia which has the Stewart Detention Center. In third place was El Paso County, Texas where the El Paso Service Processing Center is located.

The Northwest Detention Center placed Pierce County, Washington, where it is located the fourth highest county in the country housing detainees. This was closely followed by the Otay Mesa Detention Center that put San Diego County, California, in fifth place. For the list of all twenty-five counties and their rankings, see Table 1 at the end of this report.

Changing Detainee Patterns Over Time

The proportion detained during their Immigration Court proceedings has varied between a low of 11 percent to a high of 58 percent. Those who were never detained while their cases were pending in court also ranged widely from a high of 73 percent down to a low of 30 percent. As shown in Figure 1, once President Trump was inaugurated the proportion never detained fell sharply from 72 percent in December of 2016 to 47 percent in February 2017, while those detained jumped up.

Figure 1. Changing Percent Detained, Released and Never Detained in Immigration Court Proceedings,
October 2000 - January 2018
(Click for larger image)

The line-up of counties housing the most detainees has also undergone change during the Bush, Obama and Trump presidencies. By FY 2017 Los Angeles County had slid to 77th place in terms of the number of immigrants that county housed in detention facilities in court proceedings.

Ranked first in FY 2017 was Stewart County, Georgia (Stewart Detention Center), followed in second place by Pinal County, Arizona (Eloy Detention Center). Pierce County, Washington (Northwest Detention Center) had climbed to third place in these rankings last year.

The LaSalle Parish in Louisiana with its LaSalle Detention Facility had risen to fourth place by FY 2017. And a county which hadn't made the original top 25 list climbed to fifth place: Montgomery County, Texas with its Joe Corley Detention Facility.

How the detained population has varied county by county can be viewed by going to the app providing "Details on Deportation Proceedings in Immigration Court."

Table 1. Top 25 Counties With Largest Number Detained in Immigration Court Cases,
October 2000 - February 2018
Rank County State Court Hearing Location Number
1 Los Angeles County California Mira Loma Detention Facility and San Pedro 59,587
2 Stewart County Georgia Stewart Detention Center 55,069
3 El Paso County Texas El Paso Service Processing Center 54,726
4 Pierce County Washington Northwest Detention Center 46,503
5 San Diego County California Otay Mesa Detention Center and San Diego Federal Bldg. 44,261
6 Harris County Texas Houston Service Processing Center 42,707
7 Pinal County Arizona Eloy INS Detention Center and Florence 39,276
8 Cook County Illinois Chicago Detained 37,874
9 Imperial County California El Centro, California 36,857
10 Cameron County Texas Port Isabel Service Processing Center 34,128
11 York County Pennsylvania York County Prison 29,545
12 Miami-Dade County Florida Krome North Service Processing Center 27,713
13 LaSalle Parish Louisiana LaSalle Detention Facility 25,282
14 Frio County Texas Pearsall Detention Facility 25,156
15 San Francisco County California San Francisco Detained 24,662
16 Broward County Florida Broward Transitional Center 24,401
17 Pima County Arizona Tucson Detained 23,473
18 Haskell County Texas Rolling Plains Detention Center and Houston Detained 22,416
19 Polk County Texas Polk County Detention Facility 21,586
20 Fulton County Georgia Atlanta Detained and Stewart Detention Center 20,224
21 Clark County Nevada Las Vegas Detained 19,057
22 Allen Parish Louisiana Oakdale 18,890
23 Platte County Missouri Kansas City Detained 18,879
24 Arapahoe County Colorado Denver Detention Facility 18,085
25 Adams County Colorado Denver Detention Facility 17,573


[1] Because this data is based upon Immigration Court records, it also doesn't include those who ICE detained while agency officials decided their fate, bypassing the Immigration Court. Detention facility statistics for all individuals in ICE custody during FY 2015 are available at: http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/detention/exit.shtml and http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/detention/tran.shtml.

TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.