The number of detainees has more than doubled since the end of February, to nearly 27,000 as of 22 July, according to the most recent data from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), the federal agency.
That’s above the roughly 22,000 detained last July under Donald Trump, though it’s nowhere close to the record in August 2019, when the number of detainees exceeded 55,000, Ice data shows.
The rising detentions is a sore point for Joe Biden’s pro-immigration allies, who hoped he would reverse his predecessor’s hardline approach. Biden campaigned on ending “prolonged” detention and use of private prisons for immigration detention, which house the majority of those in Ice custody.
“We’re at this really strange moment with him,” said Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, which advocates for ending immigration detention outright.
“There’s still time to turn things around, but his policies so far haven’t matched his campaign rhetoric.”
In May, the Biden administration terminated contracts with two controversial Ice detention centers – one in Georgia and another in Massachusetts – receiving praise from advocates who hoped it would be the start of a broader rollback.