On December 29, 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced new measures to ensure that individuals being held by state or local law enforcement on immigration detainers are properly notified about their potential removal from the country and are made aware of their rights.

The new measures include the launch of a toll-free hotline – 1-855-448-6903 – that detained individuals can call if they believe they may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime. The hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by ICE personnel at the Law Enforcement Support Center. Translation services will be available in several languages from 7 a.m. until midnight (Eastern Time) seven days a week. ICE personnel will collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office for immediate action.

Additionally, ICE plans to issue a new detainer form (Form I-247). This immigration detainer is a notice that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to inform them that ICE intends to assume custody of an individual in the law enforcement agency’s custody and to request that the law enforcement agency notify ICE as soon as possible prior to the time when law enforcement agency would otherwise release the individual.

The new form includes:

• A request that the law enforcement agency provide the subject of the detainer a copy of the detainer form and includes a notice advising the subject that ICE intends to assume custody. The notice informs these individuals that ICE has requested the law enforcement agency maintain custody beyond the time when they would have otherwise been released by the state or local law enforcement authorities based on their criminal charges or convictions. The notice also includes Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Vietnamese translations.

• Further emphasis that law enforcement agencies may only hold an individual for a period not to exceed 48 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays). It also advises individuals that if ICE does not take them into custody within the 48 hours, they should contact the law enforcement agency or entity that is holding them to inquire about their release from state or local custody.

• Directions for individuals who may have a civil rights or civil liberties complaint regarding ICE activities.

• The new form allows ICE to make the detainer operative only upon the individual’s conviction of the offense for which he or she was arrested.

• The new form makes clear that the existence of a detainer should not impact or prejudice the individual’s conditions of detention, including matters related to the individual’s custody classification, work or quarter assignments.

According to ICE, detainers help ensure that individuals who are convicted of criminal charges or have previously been removed are not released back into the community to potentially commit more crimes. Detainers are critical tools in assisting ICE’s identification and removal of criminal aliens, immigration fugitives, illegal re-entrants, recent border crossers and others who have no legal right to remain in the United States.

The announcement comes amid controversy over immigration enforcement programs such as Secure Communities. Secure Communities, which was launched in 2008, shares fingerprints collected by state and local police with immigration authorities in order to identify and deport illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes. However, the program has been criticized because a large percentage of immigrants caught up in it were never convicted of a crime or are low-level offenders.

In late 2011, civil and immigrant rights groups accused Secure Communities of illegally detaining U.S. citizens along with undocumented immigrants. According to media reports, Antonio Montejano, 40, who was born and currently lives in Los Angeles, was arrested and charged with petty theft in early November. He pleaded guilty to the charge, the fine was waived and he was ordered released by a judge. But he was kept in detention and spent two more nights in a sheriff’s booking facility with no bed or mattress. Mr. Montejano claims that he was telling every officer that he is an American citizen, but nobody believed him. In mid-December 2011, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) said in a statement: “Native-born American citizens are being illegally detained by the Secure Communities program right here in L.A. County. This is unacceptable.”

Attorneys at I.S. Law Firm have helped many immigrants to avoid deportation and legalize their status in the United States. To explore your immigration options, please contact us at +1-703-527-1779 or by e-mail: [email protected].