The Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman (OIDO) was established by Congress in 2019 (Sec. 106 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act) to resolve problems related to and improve conditions of individuals and families in immigration detention. In 2020, OIDO formed an office, identified challenges to oversight and the provision of redress, and began conceiving case management and detention oversight processes.
In 2021, the Office expanded its presence with staff throughout the country, developed its case management and detention oversight processes, built out operational capabilities, and created a strategic plan to achieve its vision to become an objective, credible resource for those impacted by immigration detention. OIDO envisioned and brought to life a comprehensive approach to handling individual detention complaints and engaging with detainees, detention facilities, and the detention system at large. In this way, OIDO provides a unique voice in oversight by garnering a holistic understanding of the detention landscape.
In 2022, the Office continued to develop as an institution with a unique and holistic understanding of the detention landscape. We saw an incredible expansion of OIDO’s case management footprint in the field. OIDO identified operational practices best suited to accomplishing case management, all while accounting for fluctuations in detainee populations, facility closures and openings, and novel cases. By the end of 2022, our case managers maintained a persistent presence at nearly 100 detention facilities around the United States and reviewed nearly 6,000 concerns from individuals in custody.
As an ombudsman’s office, OIDO is independent of the DHS Components over which it conducts oversight. The Ombudsman is neutral; its mission is to independently examine immigration detention to promote safe, humane conditions. The Office engages with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as with detainees and their representatives to seek solutions that make sense for both parties. While sharing the details of a complaint makes the assessment of it easier, the Office will maintain the confidentiality of an individual who files a complaint if requested to do so.
OIDO is excited to announce that our new logo will appear on our uniforms! The uniforms will feature the OIDO hummingbird, which we hope will make our case managers identifiable and more approachable than uniforms traditionally found in the detention setting. We are excited to integrate this visual identity into our work, promoting our unique identity and the value we provide the immigration detention community. Images of the new OIDO case manager uniforms are shown below.
David Gersten serves as the Acting Immigration Detention Ombudsman at the Department of Homeland Security.
To maximize efficiency and effectiveness in mission achievement, OIDO is organized into a front office and six divisions: Case Management, Detention Oversight, Policy and Standards, External Relations, Operations and Resource Management, and Program Integration. Each division is tasked with a distinct set of responsibilities to accomplish the Office’s overarching objective to ensure safe and humane conditions in immigration detention facilities.
The Case Management Division independently and impartially reviews cases submitted by, or on behalf of individuals who are or were in immigration detention. We aim to objectively mediate and resolve issues at the lowest level possible.
The Case Management Division has employees throughout the United States to assist with immigration detention concerns. We are focused on providing a persistent presence at DHS detention facilities to engage with detainees and staff.
- OIDO Case Management Division operates independent from control, limitation, or interference imposed by any other official or entity.
- OIDO Case Management Division approaches each case objectively, guided by facts, law, and applicable regulations, and we will consider the legitimate concerns and interests of all individuals affected by matters within our purview.
- OIDO is committed to making its services available to all individuals with legitimate concerns regarding immigration detention.
The Detention Oversight Division ensures safe and humane conditions exist in immigration detention through independent, objective, and credible inspection and analysis of ICE and CBP facilities throughout the United States, which result in reasonable and realistic recommendations. Its inspections include review to determine whether a facility has taken corrective action to resolve violations or concerns identified during another oversight office’s prior inspection, audit, or investigation.
Detention Oversight staff are currently located in Washington, D.C.; Newark, New Jersey; Atlanta, Georgia; Phoenix, Arizona. El Paso, Texas, and San Antonio, Texas.
The Policy and Standards Division drives change across DHS by proposing solutions to improve the care of immigration detainees. Policy and Standards analyzes data collected from other OIDO divisions and DHS Components as well as various external sources to identify systemic trends and opportunities for improving detention standards, strengthening facility contractual obligations, and highlighting best practices. Its analyses result in systemic recommendations, training, technical assistance, and consultations, as appropriate, to better immigration detention conditions.
Policy and Standards:
- prioritizes issues that affect detainees’ life, safety, rights, and wellbeing;
- employs an evidence-based approach; and
- examines the pervasiveness and frequency of incidents.
Members of the public who are concerned about specific issues generally impacting persons throughout the immigration detention system are invited to contact us at: OIDOPolicy@hq.dhs.gov.
The External Relations Division engages directly with stakeholders to build trust with and provide information to the public with respect to the Office’s mission and activities. Through communication and connection, the division also gains awareness and solicits information about stakeholder concerns as they relate to immigration detention, working with other OIDO divisions to determine the appropriate method of resolution.
To contact the External Relations Division, please email us at: OIDO_Outreach@hq.dhs.gov.
The Operations and Resource Management Division is the primary focal point for office operations within OIDO. The Operations and Resource Management Division is responsible for coordinating, managing, and communicating to OIDO staff the status of a variety of operational projects and tasks aimed to deliver outcomes and benefits that align to the overall strategic mission and vision of OIDO. The Operations and Resource Management Division oversees all administrative, financial, contract, and human resource functions of the Office.
The Program Integration Division facilitates the flow of information between OIDO divisions and supports Office leadership in developing priorities, executing program plans, responding to Department taskers and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and implementing training curricula for all divisions.