An unmarked police truck patrols the outside of a detention center in Eloy, Arizona, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo

In an unexpected twist, the panel sided with the lone dissenter.

On a majority vote, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) recommended eliminating immigration detention centers on Thursday.

The council rejected a draft proposal by a subcommittee panel, which called on DHS to continue using for-profit companies to detain immigrants. The chief recommendation pointed to budgetary concerns and a “realistic” need for space to accommodate the growing number of detainees.

“Fiscal considerations, combined with the need for realistic capacity to handle sudden increases in detention, indicate that DHS’s use of private for-profit detention will continue,” the report explained as part of its lead recommendation. “But continuation should come with improved and expanded ICE oversight, and with further exploration of other models that can enhance ICE control, responsiveness, and sense of accountability for daily operations at all detention facilities. ICE should also seek ongoing ways to reduce reliance on detention in county jails.”

Other panel recommendations called on the DHS to improve health care in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, reduce the reliance on county jail detention to 72 hours because those facilities are often too far from DHS’ primary facilities; make greater use of unannounced inspections; and give detainees, their families, and legal representatives a way to report problems through “an enhanced community liaison.”

In a long footnote, Marshall Fitz, subcommittee member and Managing Director of Immigration at the Emerson Collective, indicated he “respectfully dissent[ed] from the conclusion that reliance on private prisons should, or inevitably must, continue.” He agreed with the remainder of the subcommittee’s conclusion to “improve the conditions, inspections, and oversight of extant facilities.”

When the the full council met Thursday afternoon to vote on the panel’s 14 recommendations, a vast majority — 17 out of 22 committee members — rejected the chief recommendation. Instead, the council sent DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson advice to eventually phase out the use of privately-operated detention centers alongside other recommendations to improve conditions at these facilities. The report sent to Johnson included the majority endorsement of Fitz’s position.

“As a threshold matter, it is imperative for our policy makers to differentiate civil detention from criminal incarceration,” Fitz told ThinkProgress. “Right now, in most instances, the practices are virtually indistinguishable. And we need to be especially concerned about our civil detention model when responsibility for depriving someone of their physical liberty has been outsourced to profit driven entities.”

In August, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson called for the agency to review the use of for-profit detention centers to detain immigrants. Johnson’s decision came after the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the Bureau of Prisons would begin phasing out the use of privately-operated facilities to hold people with criminal violations. ICE contracts with many of the same companies.

Roughly 65 percent of immigrants held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody are detained in facilities operated by private organizations. The GEO Group and CoreCivic — formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) — are the two biggest operators and run nine of out the 10 largest immigration detention facilities. The two companies received $765 million to detain immigrants in 2015.

About 41,000 people are currently detained in immigration detention facilities, a sharp rise from 34,000 earlier this year. Advocates have criticized the DHS for maintaining a “detention quota” to ensure that 34,000 beds are filled up on a daily basis, which incentivizes the use of privately-operated detention centers.

Among other reasons for concern, human rights organizations like the Detention Watch Network have long charged that immigrant detainees are given inadequate, sometimes fatal, care in privately-run detention centers. There have been 12 deaths this year in these facilities, with a pair of deaths occurring most recently at the CoreCivic-owned Eloy Detention Center in Arizona on November 27 and the GEO Group-operated South Texas Detention Complex in Texas on November 25.

The full HSAC committee’s unexpected majority endorsement of Fitz’s lone dissenting view may not leave much time for the Obama administration to make drastic changes to end the use of private facilities. Incoming President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to detain and deport anywhere between two and three million “criminal” immigrants after he takes office. He has also supported the use of privately-operated facilities, which could lead to the expansion of detention centers to take in immigrants as they wait for their deportation proceedings.