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ICE’s Largest Family Detention Center Is Well Below Capacity

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Kevin McAleenan, who was then commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee March 6th, 2019, in Washington, D.C. He is now the acting secretary of Homeland Security.

In a year in which immigration officials in the Department of Homeland Security have warned that the country’s immigration enforcement system is severely overwhelmed, it has surprised some people that the nation’s largest family detention center remains well below physical capacity.

Attorneys representing clients in the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, report that the detention center’s population has fluctuated dramatically in recent months. The facility, the country’s largest for detaining asylum-seeking and migrant families, has bed space for 2,400 people.

“We don’t receive official population numbers, but we do know that the Dilley population was down at least to 300 two weeks ago, and we believe it is around 600 or 700 right now,” Katy Murdza, advocacy coordinator with the Dilley Pro Bono Project, writes in an email. When asked to confirm Murdza’s numbers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to Murdza’s estimate of 300, but did confirm that the population in the Dilley facility was 709 people as of April 18th. On March 29th, the Washington Post reported that the Dilley population was at 1,025.

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