McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The number of asylum-seeking migrants in federal detention in July reached its highest level in three years, according to recent data.

As of July 30, there were 30,438 migrants held in detention facilities operated either by U.S. Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In mid-July, there were 31,064 non-citizens detained, which is the most held in U.S. detention since April 2020 under the Trump administration, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University reports.

(TRAC Graphic)

Nearly one-third of all detainees are being held in ICE facilities in Texas, TRAC reports.

In August 2019, during the Trump administration, detentions exceeded 55,600 and then dropped to below 30,000 by late April 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report obtained by NPR found “negligent” conditions in ICE detention facilities dating back to that time period. The inspection reports were written by experts hired by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties who examined more than two dozen facilities in 16 states from 2017 to 2019.

NPR sued under the Freedom of Information Act for the release of the information. On Wednesday, NPR published a story citing several examples of medical care denied to detainees, unsanitary conditions, racial abuse of detainees and improper treatment of detainees. This occurred, according to the report, at facilities managed by private for-profit corporations that contract with the federal government like GEO Group and CoreCivic.

In response to questions on the report Thursday, a DHS spokesperson told Border Report: “ICE takes its commitment to promoting safe, secure, humane environments for those in our custody very seriously. ICE has closed or scaled back multiple immigration detention facilities since the start of this administration. We are committed to ensuring, to the extent possible, that individuals remain in a facility that is close to family, loved ones, or attorneys of record. The agency continuously reviews and enhances civil detention operations to ensure noncitizens are treated humanely, protected from harm, provided appropriate medical and mental health care, and receive the rights and protections to which they are entitled.”

(TRAC Graphic)

So far in Fiscal Year 2023, the South Texas ICE Processing Center in Pearsall, Texas, has held the largest number of ICE detainees, averaging 1,252 per day.

Migrant advocates want more use of alternatives to detention methods and better federal government oversight of these facilities.

“The federal government must ensure that it is treating people with dignity and respect,” Jennie Murray, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum said in a statement Thursday. “The administration should move to increase the use of alternatives to detention, which have proved effective and save money, and decrease the number of people in detention facilities to begin with. It also should follow through on reducing its dependence on for-profit private prisons.”

There were just under 200,000 asylum-seekers placed in ATD programs in July, which is down from a high last September, TRAC reports.

(TRAC Graphic)

Earlier this month, ICE announced it was expanding a controversial ATD program that imposes curfews on asylum-seekers but keeps them out of detention facilities.

“Migrants have human dignity, and ICE detention centers must prioritize humane treatment,” Murray said. “The Biden administration must ensure that the conditions described in these reports do not persist today.”

Although the reports of mistreatment did not occur during the Biden administration, DHS officials in the Biden administration still refused to release the information, NPR reported.

Border Report has asked ICE officials why the information was not released, and for a copy of the inspection reports. This story will be updated if additional information is received.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at