Record Numbers of Undocumented Immigrants Being Detained in U.S.

Lauren Etter
November 10, 2016 — 12:25 PM PST

A record number of immigrants are being held by the U.S. government in detention facilities as migrants arrive in high numbers.

About 41,000 are currently being held in immigration detention facilities, up from a “typical” number of between 31,000 and 34,000, Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a news release Thursday. The government is acquiring additional space for those apprehended at the border so they can be held until they are returned to their home countries, he said.

“Those who attempt to enter our country without authorization should know that, consistent with our laws and our values, we must and we will send you back,” said the secretary in a news release.

Nearly half of those in the detention facilities are migrants seeking asylum, said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy organization based in Austin, Texas, that opposes private prisons. Typically, asylum seekers are released pending their court date, but a growing number are being held instead in a handful of jail-like facilities, mainly in Texas, Libal said.

The election of Donald Trump on Tuesday has put immigration into the spotlight as he made the topic a keystone of his campaign. The Republican has promised to build a wall and deport the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Immigrants and advocacy groups are on edge about what their future could bring under a Trump administration. Trump’s victory sent stocks in private prison companies soaring Wednesday.

Near record numbers of migrants are flowing into the U.S., many to escape violence in Central America, and others seeking refuge from natural disasters in Haiti. In October, border officials captured just over 46,000 people who were trying to sneak in between official ports of entry, up 16 percent over the previous month, the secretary said.

Apprehensions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the year ended Sept. 30 totaled almost 409,000, up 23 percent over fiscal 2015.