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What Does An Immigration Detainer Mean?

Immigration detainers are requests sent by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to local jails, prisons, or police departments. These detainers request that the jail hold an individual for up to 48 hours after they would normally be released so ICE can take custody of them and pursue their deportation case. The use of immigration detainers has increased dramatically in recent years. There is a lot of confusion about what this means and how long you can be held based on this detainer. Reading this will help dispel some myths about immigration detainers.

What Is an ICE Hold or Immigration Detainer?

An immigration detainer, or “ICE hold,” is a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a state (such as Florida) or local (such as Miami-Dade or Broward) law enforcement agency to hold someone until the person can be taken into federal immigration custody. A detainer asks that the law enforcement agency hold a person for up to 48 hours beyond the time that the person would otherwise be released (e.g., because charges were dropped, the person was released on bail or their own recognizance, the person was acquitted, or the person completed a jail or prison sentence). Detainers are requests from ICE; the federal government acknowledges that they are not mandatory. However, most states (including Florida) tend to abide by and honor these detainers.

These immigration holds, are one of the main immigration enforcement tools that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to apprehend suspected noncitizens who are currently in the criminal justice system. It assists ICE in transferring prisoners into immigration custody, where they will face removal (deportation) proceedings.

The immigration detainer serves to advise the jail or agency holding the person that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “seeks custody of an alien presently in the custody of that agency, for the purpose of arresting and removing the alien.” An immigration detainer is a request by ICE to state or local jails to detain an individual after he or she is eligible for release in order to enable ICE to take custody of them. “The detainer is a request that such agency advise the Department, prior to release of the alien, in order for the Department to arrange to assume custody, in situations when gaining immediate custody is either impracticable or impossible.”  

There are many misunderstandings about immigration detainers. For example, an immigration detainer is not an arrest warrant. It's also not proof that you are in ICE custody or that you can be deported from the United States.

The law says ICE can put out a detainer for people who have been charged with controlled substance violations. But ICE does it for many other reasons as well. The law also says that the local agency should generate the request, not ICE. But both regularly ignore the law and do what they want to do anyway.

How Does ICE Decide When to Issue a Detainer Against a Prisoner?

Immigration officers need a reason to believe that the person in custody is not an American citizen. But the law does not have a standard for what they need to show. Immigration officials will usually put detainers on anyone they think is not a citizen and who might be breaking immigration laws.

The use of immigration detainers has increased dramatically in recent years. There is a lot of confusion about what this means and how long you can be held

If you have been detained by law enforcement because there is an immigration hold on you, it's important to know your rights as soon as possible! You should contact an attorney immediately if given notice that you're being held under a detainer or if placed into removal proceedings. 

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