Apparently not. According to a recent Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse report, only about 10% of ICE detainers target individuals who post a threat to public safety or national security. Those are the nations highest enforcement priorities, yet 90% of all detainers are against those who don’t meet that criteria. ICE detainers are frequently part of enforcement programs like Secure Communities and Criminal Alien Program, and involve state and local authorities in immigration enforcement. Cities around the country, like our own Newark, are no longer honoring ICE’s detainer requests.
The TRAC report is not a surprise to immigration practitioners, but is highly disappointing. Last December, ICE issued new guidance that was to ensure detainers were in light with ICE’s enforcement goals. The guidance was to prioritized deportation who post a threat to public safety or national security. It is clear that the guidance has not sufficiently changed the way immigration officials are using detainers.
If you are not a citizen of the U.S. and spend any time in jail, ICE will file a detainer on your case. That means if someone pays your bail or if you are found not guilty, ICE will have 48 hours (not including weekends or holidays) to decide what to do with you. The moment you are eligible to be released ICE will determine your status and decide whether to initiate removal proceedings. If you already have a removal/deportation order, they will take you into custody and place you on a plane as quickly as possible. If they initiate proceedings against you, then they will determine whether (1) to release you without condition during the pendency of the removal proceedings; (2) release under certain conditions, like immigration bond (FAQ) or electronic monitoring; or (3) keep you detained until the end of your case.
ICE has not properly addressed its use of detainers. Immigrant families and their communities continue to pay the price for the over use of detainers. In the past several months alone, our office has successfully stopped the deportation of several individuals whose only crime was to have driven a car without a license. There are too many cases like these. We hope that ICE will start to focus on the criminals and not just on every undocumented person they encounter.