When the Department of Homeland Security investigated conditions in detention centers in 2015 it reported the system “obscures and perpetuates widespread abuses of detained immigrants.” This should surprise no one. Detainees have reported abuses for years. As recently as November 2017 the National Immigrant Justice Center issued a report that substantiates those claims.


Every detention center used by Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE) passed 100% of their inspections between 2012 and 2017. Some passed despite the fact they had multiple deaths due to medical neglect. One ICE employee dismissed the inspection process as useless. Another told investigators that it is very difficult to fail an inspection.

The government contracts with private, for-profit prison systems to operate detention centers. Contract renewal is contingent on the facilities meeting certain standards set by law. When investigations are lax, at best, and possibly fraudulent, the companies are rewarded with renewed contracts they don’t deserve.

The present system does not offer any incentive for companies to operate fair and humane detention centers. Until ICE revokes funding for flagrant violations of the standards in place it seems unlikely to change.

If you have concerns about abuse and mismanagement at a facility, you have the right to submit your complaint to the Office of Inspector General.

You can mail it to:

Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties U.S. Department of Homeland Security Building 410, Mail Stop #0190 Washington, D.C. 20528

You can also email or call the Office of Inspector General

Phone: 202-401-1474 | 1-866-644-8360 (toll free) TTY: 202-401-0470 | 1-866-644-8361 (toll free) Fax: 202-401-4708 E-mail: crcl@dhs.gov

Bringing detention center failures into the light of day can motivate ICE to hold abusive operators accountable. These days it may be the only way change will happen. If you or a loved one is detained by ICE, you need a lawyer urgently. Please contact our experienced immigration lawyers at 510-488-1020 to see how our office can help!