How To Obtain Information About ICE Contract Facilities

Determining the location of immigration detention facilities and obtaining information about the facilities’ contracts can be difficult, but CIVIC can help you file state public record requests or federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Why Is It So Difficult to Obtain Information About ICE Contract Facilities?

Establishing a community visitation program requires determining where persons are being held in immigration custody, but this information is not always easily attainable for three reasons.  First, ICE does not publicize up-to-date information about its facilities.  ICE does maintain a Facility Locator program on its website, which allows the public to search for detention facilities by state, region, or name.  However, this list is not comprehensive.  For example, while it lists 9 facilities in California, it fails to list all of the facilities holding immigrants in California, such as the James A. Musick Facility and Theo Lacy in Southern California.[1]  Thus, CIVIC has created a comprehensive map of immigration detention facilities based on data it received from ICE: 

View Immigration Detention Visitation – CIVIC in a larger map

Second, ICE often responds to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with records that are both over inclusive and under inclusive.  For example, when CIVIC co-founders started the first immigration detention visitation program in California in August 2010, ICE’s Facility Locator did not exist.  Therefore, Christina Fialho and Christina Mansfield’s research began by poring over results of FOIA requests and talking with immigration attorneys to determine where immigrants were being detained in Northern California.  They first reviewed records of the Switzerland-based Global Detention Project obtained through a FOIA request.[2]  The records were over-inclusive in that they showed that dozens of jails and prisons in California had the potential to house immigrants in detention, but the records also were under-inclusive because they only provided a glimpse of detention during one month.  In particular, the records indicated that thirty-five cities in California in September 2007 had the ability to hold “ICE detainees” in jails, state prisons, or privatized prisons located within their city.[3]  However, not all of these cities actually housed persons in immigration detention during the month of September 2007.  For example, while the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose housed 218 persons in immigration detention in September 2007, the Corcoran State Prison housed zero.[4]  Simply knowing that a facility had an agreement with ICE did not explain how often ICE used the facility to hold immigrants in custody.  Thus, in order to determine where immigrants were being detained in 2010, Fialho and Mansfield had to contact individual counties. 

This leads to the third reason why information about the location of detention facilities is not easily attainable: Counties that hold immigrants in detention through intergovernmental service agreements with ICE are not forthcoming about these agreements.  For example, Santa Clara County’s public information officer provided Detention Dialogues with misinformation about its agreement with ICE.  Christina Fialho first contacted the Santa Clara County Public Record Officer, Sergeant Rick Sung, in late 2010.  In a phone call and in a follow-up email on November 22, 2010, Sergeant Sung said, “Please be advised that the Santa Clara County Department of Correction never had an MOU or interagency service agreement with ICE.”[5]  In order to obtain accurate information, Christina had to file a California Public Records Request, and the results revealed that Santa Clara County in fact had been detaining immigrants for the federal government since 1984 when it began contracting with the U.S. Marshals Services (before ICE’s creation in 2003) and had recently ended its contract with ICE in 2010.[6] 

What Are My Options Now for Obtaining Information About Detention Facilities?
You have at least four options:
1) Check out ICE’s FOIA Library, which contains some of its intergovernmental service agreements (IGSAs) or contracts with local detention facilities..
2) If what you are looking for is not available, you can schedule a tour of an ICE detention facility using CIVIC’s guide.  During the tour, you can ask for a copy of the Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) or contact between ICE and the county or facility.  Many times, ICE and/or the facility will provide you with the contract.
3) If you are trying to obtain information about a county jail contracting with ICE, you can file a State Public Record Request (see below for guidance on filing a public record request in your state).
4) If you are trying to obtain information about a private prison contracting with ICE, it will be more difficult because private prisons often fail to comply with existing public record laws and FOIA requests.  
Private contractors are only obligated to provide reports and records as required by their contract, but to CIVIC’s knowledge, no federal contract requires a private prison contractor to comply with FOIA to the same extent as the contracting government agency.  As a result, records are not obtainable from the contracting government agency if the private prison company is not required to disclose such information pursuant to their contract.
This is deeply troubling to CIVIC, given that both Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group receive over 40 percent of their revenue from federal contracts.  Additionally, private prisons provide functionally equivalent government services, and communities should be allowed to scrutinize the performance of public services and the expenditure of public funds even when government duties have been delegated to private independent contractors.  This is why CIVIC supports the passage of The Private Prison Information Act (read the official text of H.R. 1889); this bill would require privately-operated prisons and other correctional facilities that hold people in federal custody under contract with a federal agency to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the same extent as the federal agency itself.  Private prison firms would not be required to do any more than what federal agencies already do.
Despite the fact that a private prison may not be required to provide you with information under a FOIA request, it is possible that you will receive a positive response to your request.  This was the case with a FOIA request for ICE’s contract with GEO Group regarding the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana.  Therefore, you should submit a FOIA request with ICE for private prison records:

If you need to file an appeal or complaint, the Reporters Committee has additional forms to guide you through the process.  As this infographic explains, filing a FOIA can be a cumbersome process, but CIVIC and its legal team is here to help every step of the way!

Guidance on Filing a Public Record Act Request
This is a sample California Public Record Request CIVIC filed in Orange County to obtain information about the James Musick Facility and Theo Lacy.  CIVIC eventually received two CDs with dozens of documents, including the IGSAs between Orange County and ICE. The documents explain that the bed rate for 728 males is $118 and the bed rate for 110 females is $118 in Orange County.  Medical expenses will not be reimbursed above $720,000 per year.  Click here for the released Orange County public records on ICE detention.
These links will help you to draft a public record request in your home state:

Arizona: Public Record Requests 101 and Learn More on the Secretary of State’s Website

Arkansas: Arkansas Public Record Guide and Arkansas Freedom of Information Act of 2001

California: A Pocket Guide to the Public Records Act

Colorado: Using the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) and More Information about CORA

Georgia: How To Make an Open Records Request

Illinois: How to File a FOIA Request with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General

Nebraska: Public Records Statutes

New Jersey: Open Public Records Act Forms

Maryland: Public Information Act

Virginia: The Virginia Freedom of Information Act

DC: DC FOIA Code §§ 2-531-539 

Massachusetts: Making a Request for Public Records

Minnesota: How to Request Public Records in Minnesota and immediate searchable public records 

Texas: How to Request Public Information

Florida: Public Records Request & Sample Letter or Use an Electronic Form

Michigan: Michigan Freedom of Information Act

New York: About the Freedom of Information Law and Sample Letter

Pennsylvania: How to Make a Request for Records

Ohio: Ohio Sunshine Laws Resource Manual

Washington: Obtaining Public Records and the Washington Coalition for Open Government Guide

Whether or not your state is listed above, please contact CIVIC at for assistance in filing your state public record request or FOIA request.  You may also be interested in checking out the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which provides information on every state’s open records and open meetings laws. 
[1]  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Detention Facility Locator, available at (last visited Mar. 31, 2012).

[2] Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, Case No. 07-FOIA-51185, to Michael Flynn (Nov. 7, 2007), available at 

[3]Id. (Lancaster, San Diego, San Pedro, El Centro, San Jose, Westminister, Bakersville, Marysville, Santa Ana, San Bernadino, El Cajon, Sacramento, Camarrillo, San Rafael, San Mateo, French Camp, Woodland, Fresno, Corcoran (California State Prison), Castro Valley, Redwood City, Milpitas, Calipatria (State Prison), Salinas, Vacaville, Merced, Santa Cruz, Oakland, Ventura, Willows, Los Angeles, Red Bluff, Atwater, Lompoc, and Riverside).


[5] Email from Rick Sung, Public Information Officer, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, to Christina Fialho (Nov. 22, 2010, 7:43 PST).

[6] California Public Records Act (Govt. Code §§ 6250 – 6276.48), to Christina Fialho (Dec. 17, 2010) (on file with author) (“The USM has contracted with the County to house federal prisoners since 1984.  The initial agreement, followed by five subsequent amendments, was valid until January, 1998.  In February, 1998 the DOC negotiated a new Agreement with the USM for an indefinite time period.  The Agreement can be terminated when either party informs the other in writing 30 days in advance of the effecitve date of termination or a new Agreement is put into place.  Two amendments to the Agreement were completed in July 1998, and February 2000. On August 19, 2003, the Board of Supervisors delegated authority to the Chief of Correction to approve two additional addendums to the Agreement: one to include transportation services for federal prisoners, and the other to include ICE as a user agency in the Agreement with the U.S. Marshall’s Service.”).

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