Thursday, February 21, 2013

Are U.S. Citizens Among the Targets of ICE Detainers?

During a recent 50-month period covering FY 2008 through the start of FY 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents issued nearly one million detainers, according to case-by-case records obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) through a Freedom of Information Act request.

An immigration "detainer," often called an "immigration hold," is a notice that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents issue to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. It is a primary tool ICE uses to apprehend suspected noncitizens being held by these authorities. In more than two out of three (77.4%) of the detainers issued by ICE, the record shows that the individual who had been identified had no criminal record — either at the time the detainer was issued or subsequently. For the remaining 22.6 percent that had a criminal record, only 8.6 percent of the charges were classified as a Level 1 offense.

While the press have quoted ICE officials as contending that the agency did not track how many U.S. citizens had been inadvertently held in immigration detention, the data released to TRAC indicate that a substantial number of U.S. citizens may be affected. It is illegal for DHS to detain U.S. citizens, and to do so is a significant violation of their constitutional rights. According to ICE records, detainers were issued on a total of 834 individuals who were actually U.S. citizens. In addition, detainers were issued on a total of 28,489 legal permanent residents (LPRs). LPRs — or "green card" holders — are individuals who have been officially granted the right to live and work permanently in the United States. ICE issued detainers on these individuals even though for 20,281 of them ICE had no record of any criminal conviction.


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