New Report Exposes How ICE’s Inspections Perpetuate and Obscure Abuse at Immigration Detention Centers Around the US

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Newly Released Government Documents Reveal Critical Flaws in ICE Inspections Process, Show that the Obama Administration’s Reforms Fail to Fix Widespread Abuses

WASHINGTON, DC — A new report, “Lives in Peril: How Ineffective Inspections Make ICE Complicit in Immigration Detention Abuse” released today by the National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) and Detention Watch Network (DWN), exposes how the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inspections process for immigration detention centers obscures and perpetuates widespread abuses of detained immigrants.

View the report here

The report draws on information from ICE inspections documents for 105 immigration detention facilities and features focused analyses of inspections for detention centers in Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Georgia and Illinois. NIJC obtained the inspections through a federal court order resulting from three years of litigation under the Freedom of Information Act. NIJC and DWN’s review of the documents reveals fundamental inconsistencies within and between inspection reports for individual detention centers which suggests that the immigration detention inspection process is a sham - designed to perpetuate a broken and abusive system.

“The government fought for years to keep these inspection reports hidden from the public eye, and now we know why: despite its early promises to make the detention system more accountable and humane, the Obama administration has perpetuated a system that ensures detention contractors pass their inspections and continue to receive billions of dollars from taxpayers to detain immigrants, even in jails where there are highly publicized human rights abuses,” said Claudia Valenzuela, director of detention for the National Immigrant Justice Center.

“ICE’s inspection processes is fundamentally broken and fails to adequately assess troubling conditions and human rights violations detained immigrants face. Plain and simple - the Obama Administration’s attempts at reforming the immigration detention system have failed: Detention centers are not safe, abuses are widespread and detention facilities consistently fail to meet basic minimum standards,” explained Mary Small, policy director for the Detention Watch Network.

Toplines from the report include:

  • ICE has kept the detention inspections process centralized under its own authority and has hidden the system from the eyes of U.S. taxpayers.
  • ICE’s inspection regime fails to provide an accurate assessment of the conditions immigrants experience in detention, holds most facilities to weak and outdated human rights standards, and often fails to acknowledge publicly reported abuses.
  • Numerous inconsistencies within and between inspection reports raise serious questions about the validity of ICE inspections and imply that the inspection process is designed to facilitate passing ratings so that local governments and private prison companies can maintain their contracts. This report makes it obvious that ICE cannot police itself.
  • A robust and legitimate inspection process would find that detention facilities around the country fail to meet basic minimum standards, and require ICE to discontinue contracts with facilities that fail to uphold basic human rights protections.

NIJC was represented in the Freedom of Information Act litigation by pro bono lawyers from Dentons US LLP.


Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. Visit

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.