Learn more about Immigrant Detention in the United states


Immigrant detention in the United States refers to the thousands of immigrants daily who are held in detention across the United States, whether in facilities built for immigrant detention, prisons, or jails. A majority of ICE detainees are imprisoned in for-profit prisons.

The United States has the largest immigrant detention system in the world. Between 2015 and 2021, the daily number of immigrants in detention has ranged between thirteen and fifty two thousand. In 2019, ICE detained 500,000 people in total. The 2021 fiscal budget allocates $3.1 billion for the purpose of ICE detention.

A majority of immigrants in detention are held for reasons related to their immigration status. As of July 8, 2021, 79.6% of immigrants in detention have not been convicted of a crime, while a portion of the remaining percent have been convicted for traffic violations or other nonviolent offenses.

While most in ICE detention are held for less than a month, VIDA volunteers often visit or correspond with people who are held for longer. Kelly Gonzalez Aguilar, a transgender woman asylum seeker who spent time in Cibola County Correctional Center, was detained by ICE for 1,051 days (or 34 months) before her eventual release. Many VIDA volunteers got to meet her and write to her during that time.

Immigrants in detention suffer the effects of imprisonment and isolation with the added uncertainty of case proceedings. Our goal as visitor volunteers is to provide them a source of outside connection and to be observers and advocates for them.

Torrance County Correction Facility in Estancia, New Mexico, and Cibola County Correction Facility in Milan, New Mexico are both New Mexico prisons that are run by the private prison company CoreCivic and who hold immigrants for ICE. VIDA works with immigrants in these facilities, each about an hour away from Albuquerque (Torrance to the southeast and Cibola to the west) to visit and support them.

In addition to supporting those in detention at Torrance and Cibola, VIDA collaborates with Casa de Paz in Aurora, Colorado to share a list of immigrants in detention at centers all over the country. We match volunteers with immigrants to write to based on the languages that they can write or on how many people have requested a correspondent. Currently we have many more immigrants on our list than we have volunteers who can write. Below are a number of resources and training materials that will help you to be an informed VIDA volunteer.

Exposed - The Injustice of Immigrant Detention

Exposed- The Injustice of Immigration Detention (1).mp4

A Guide to Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and the Convention Against Torture

Vera Asylum Withholding CAT English (1).pdf

Freedom for Immigrants Visitor Volunteer Guide

Copy of Freedom for Immigrants Visitor Volunteer Guide

VIDEO: Visit a Person in Immigrant Detention

Visit a Person in Immigration Detention - YouTube (360p).mp4
Florence Project Advocacy Toolkit
Excerpt pages 31-35 - Supporting Asylum Seekers_A Toolkit for Congregations_10.7.19.pdf

immigrant rights - aclu