Illinois in the ICE age

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took 966 individuals into custody in Illinois during November and December of 2012.

During that same period, ICE released 915 people. Many of the individuals who left ICE custody entered detention facilities earlier and one person had been held for more than one year. Of those who left, 390 were deported and 38 agreed to their own removal.

Detainees can be held for anywhere from a few weeks to a few years while their cases proceed. More than 420,000 people nationwide were detained in 2012. In a little more than a decade, immigration detention has tripled.

The U.S. government's increased criminalization and enforcement of migration has created a boom in profits for private prison companies and local municipalities at the expense of human rights. Migrants in detention face numerous hardships including being separated from family, and inadequate access to lawyers and medical care.

The map below visualizes the trajectories of all the people who left ICE custody during November and December of 2012, from the time they were taken into custody until they were released, whether by deportation, transfer to another agency or some other means. It also offers and a closer look at the journey of seven people. The names of these people are unknown, so they are identied by the number assigned to them in the data set.

Facilities: 24
Detained: 0
Deported: 0
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According to a Human Rights Watch report, close to 1.6 million immigrant detainees were transferred between 1997 and 2006. In 2008, a majority of detainees were transferred two or more times. In response to this report, ICE announced in 2010 it’s intention to "minimize the number of detainee transfers to the greatest extent possible" and reduce long-distance transfers.

ICE records obtained by TRAC at Syracuse University for the two-month period in 2012 show that detainees continue to be transferred at high rates within the Midwest.

Tracing the journey

Some people were transferred between as many as seven facilities, not counting multiple trips to Chicago for court hearings — a drive of that takes between two and eight hours, depending on the detention center.

Transportation is billed to taxpayers by, mostly, subcontractors. Jefferson County, for instance, charges $26.00 per hour with a mileage rate of $0.585. Pulaski County bills at $13 miles per hour plus mileage.

Sexual abuse and unsanitary conditions have been reported during transfer.

Of the 915 detainees, 617 were transferred two or more times and 44 were transferred more than 10 times.

The human costs

ICE relies on a system of subcontracts with state jails and prisons as well as private prison companies. Detention centers receive up to $166 per person, per day.

Among the detainees who are unnecessarily imprisoned are asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, parents of small children, elderly individuals, people with serious medical and mental health conditions, and lawful permanent residents facing deportation because of old or minor crimes.


The current immigration policy tears families apart and ruins their opportunity for a better life.

The federal government's decision to prosecute more immigration violations criminally has diverted resources from the prosecution of serious crimes.

There is an alternative to detention in community-based solutions that are more humane, more effective, and much less costly.

About the data

The data was provided by The Transactional Recorord Access Clearninghous (TRAC) with additional data from the National Immigrant Justice Center


This project was compiled in June 2013 for Chicago MigraHack by:

Geoff Hing
Ruth Lopez
Tara Tidwell Cullen
Jimmie Glover

Female and male avatar icons by JM Waideaswaran via The Noun Project.