Since the passage of new legislation in 1996, which considerably extended the boundaries of mandatory detention for non-citizens, immigration detention has become the fastest growing prison program in the United States. As a result, detention centres have swelled to over 200,000 detainees annually, as the asylum system strains to manage increasing demand on its resources. With a current daily population of detainees almost tripling since 1992 to an average of 20,000 and an average annual expenditure of over $600 million on detention, the U.S. immigration service presently faces an urgent need to reform its system in order to cope with ever-increasing pressure. This paper analyses the current US asylum adjudication system presenting the alleged rationale for and the costs of detention. Upon citing the widely accepted relevant international standards it proposes an alternative model, based on a individual rather than categorical approach in the decision to detain, which also shows viable option for release into the community.