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Immigration Detainers

An immigration detainer is a way for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to request that an individual who is being detained in a county or state prison or jail on criminal charges, be detained within that same facility for up to an additional 48 hours past the time they otherwise would have been released (whether they served their time, were granted bail, were found innocent, or were scheduled to be released from some other reason). The purpose of an immigration detainer is to allow ICE sufficient time to go to that prison or jail to take the individual into custody from the facility where they are detained and place them into ICE custody.  Once the individual is in ICE custody, they will begin removal proceedings in an attempt to deport that person from the United States.

ICE may use the fingerprints of individuals who have been booked into a jail or prison to identify removable aliens. ICE may also use booking information or other information gathered by federal, state, or local officials to determine whether an individual may be a removable alien. Some jails or prisons have ICE officers present on the premises, while others may have an agreement with ICE regarding their cooperation or assistance with immigration detainers.

Compliance with detainer requests is voluntary. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are not required to honor detainer requests, and different agencies have different policies regarding honoring immigration detainers.

It is not necessary that an individual who is being held on an immigration detainer have been convicted of a crime, or even that they have been convicted of committing a serious crime. An individual held in a jail or prison for any charge, regardless of whether or not they are eventually convicted, can be held on an immigration detainer. Likewise, one’s guilt or innocence does not necessarily influence the eventual outcome of immigration proceedings, if they are initiated; even if a detained individual has not committed a crime, they may still be removed from the country if they are ultimately found to be removable in Immigration Court and are not granted any type of relief from removal. In some instances, an individual held on an immigration detainer may not actually be removable from the country, and on rare occasions, even U.S. citizens have mistakenly been held.

While the detainer only lasts 48 hours, individuals for whom ICE issues detainers are frequently denied bail or bond while they await adjudication of their underlying criminal convictions, as well as their immigration matters. This means that individuals who would otherwise have been released if they were U.S. citizens are often denied bail or bond due to their immigration status, and they can spend significant periods of time waiting for adjudication of both their criminal charges and their immigration matters.

If your friend or loved one is being held on an immigration detainer, or if you are interested in learning more about this topic, please contact Tanner Law Offices at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.