What Happens if You Get Detained by

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), enforces federal immigration laws that sometimes require individuals to be detained. ICE works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement partners in this mission. The 287(g) program, one of ICE’s top partnership initiatives, allows a state and local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement. The state or local entities receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions. ICE promotes homeland security and public safety by enforcing federal laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration. The agency has an annual budget in the billions of dollars.

 An immigration detainer is a notice from DHS informing law enforcement agencies that DHS intends to assume custody of you after you otherwise would be released from custody. It is issued by DHS to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to inform the law enforcement agencies that ICE intends to assume custody of an individual for a period not to exceed 48 hours. If DHS places an immigration detainer, you will be held in custody for a period not to exceed 48 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) beyond the time when you would have been released by the state or local law enforcement authorities based on your criminal charges or convictions.

Detainers are requests, not commands. They are not arrest warrants and do not provide probable cause for arrest. The presence of a detainer is not indicative of a person’s immigration status. Detainers do not begin deportation proceedings and do not signify whether a person will or will not be deported. Thus, detainers are different than a Notice to Appear (NTA), which is an official civil/immigration filing that commences a removal proceeding against an individual. An immigration detainer states that an “investigation has been initiated to determine whether you are subject to removal from the United States.” Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 287.7(a), any authorized immigration official (or local police officer designated to act as an immigration official through the 287(g) program) can issue a detainer to any other federal, state or local law enforcement agency.

An immigration detainer serves three key functions:

  • To notify a law enforcement agency that ICE intends to assume custody of an alien in the law enforcement agency’s custody once the alien is no longer subject to the law enforcement agency 's detention;
  • To request information from a law enforcement agency about an alien's impending release so ICE may assume custody before the alien is released from the law enforcement agency’s custody; and
  • To request that the law enforcement agency maintain custody of an alien who would otherwise be released for a period not to exceed 48 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) to provide ICE time to assume custody.

Detainers are critical for ICE to be able to identify and remove criminal aliens who are currently in federal, state or local custody. Local law enforcement agencies are advised that once individuals are in the custody of ICE, they may be removed from the United States. If the law enforcement agency wants an individual to remain in the United States for prosecution or other law enforcement purposes, including acting as a witness, the agency must notify the local Field Office or the ICE Law Enforcement Support Center.

If a local law enforcement agency believes someone may be the victim of a crime or a U.S. citizen, the law enforcement agency will notify the ICE Law Enforcement Support Center. The web site https://locator.ice.gov/odls/#/index can be used to search for a detainee who is in ICE custody or who has recently been released if you know the detainee’s nine-digit Alien Registration Number (A-number). The A-number is an identifying number that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services assigns to certain aliens, such as those who apply for an adjustment of status. If you have been detained by ICE and you have not committed a crime, you probably will not be deported.


Were You Detained by ICE and need an Immigration lawyer?

If you have been detained by ICE it would be wise to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. Your local Broward County lawyer will explain your rights and help to make the process both smooth and efficient. For help here, see 9 of the Best Immigration Lawyers in Broward County.


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