Alternatives to Detention

Detention Watch Network's Alternatives to Detention Action Team

Vision Statement 2008


Detention deprives individuals of their most fundamental right to liberty. For immigrants and asylum-seekers, this extreme measure is often unnecessary. International law articulates a presumption against detention and the burden is on the United States government, not the people that it seeks to detain, to demonstrate its necessity. Detention may be justified only when other less restrictive solutions to ensure appearance at hearings or compliance with removal orders are not an option, or where the detainee presents a threat to the community. For those individuals not eligible for release, humane alternatives to detention will allow the enforcement of immigration laws in a more logical and responsible manner than traditional detention.


We seek to uphold the spirit of the Constitution and respect an individual's right to liberty. We support alternatives that treat adults and children with decency as they await their immigration proceedings, such as release or the enrollment into community or faith-based programs. Restrictive programs such as electronic ankle bracelets and burdensome curfews constitute an alternative form of detention that qualifies as custody. They are appropriate only when other less restrictive alternatives have been demonstrated to be inappropriate. All people in the United States-men, women and children-should be able to lead lives of dignity as they await the reckoning of the courts towards their status as recognized members of American society.

See a graphic representation of the detention continuum, which demonstrates how the Alternatives Team envisions programs be used versus how ICE currently uses programs. Also, check out this Alternatives to Detention Fact Sheet, created by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

If you are a DWN member and would like to get involved in the ongoing legislative, administrative, and public education work around alternatives to detention, email us to join the etucker [at] detentionwatchnetwork [dot] org (Alternatives Action Team)!