Deathscapes

Archipelago of Detention

Deathscapes

Archipelago of Detention

To facilitate the current deportation drive, the DHS has developed, over the past decade and a half or so, a vast archipelago of carceral spaces in which to detain immigrants pending their removal from the United States. The growth has been such that ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) directorate now runs the largest detention operation in the nation. In 2016, ICE detained approximately 360,000 foreign nationals, more than four times the number of people held in 1994 (81,707) and about a 72 percent increase from 2001 (209,000).

ICE houses its detainee population in a variety of facilities. These include 6 ICE owned Service Processing Centers (SPCs), 7 privately owned Contract Detention Facilities (CDFs), and several hundred Intergovernmental Service Agreement facilities—basically local and county jails (like Hall County Corrections) which contract with ICE to hold immigrant detainees. Notably, for-profit prison corporations play a huge role in managing the immigrant detention archipelago. They house more than 73 percent of all detainees. This delegation of immigrant confinement to organizations whose main purpose is to generate profits perversely produces pressure to increase detentions: the more immigrants confined, the higher the profits. Immigrant bodies have thus become valuable commodities whose worth lies in being placed and kept behind bars.

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Map with location and approximate size of U.S. immigration detention facilities overseen by ICE
Map with location and approximate size of U.S. immigration detention facilities overseen by ICE. From U.S. Government Accountability Office.


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