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Combating Family Separation & Deportation

Ending Insecure Communities

The Obama administration detained and deported more than 400,000 people in 2013, separating countless families, funneling thousands of children into the foster care system, and hurting local economies that rely on immigrant labor. The keystone of the detention and deportation infrastructure is something known as an “ICE detainer” or “ICE hold.” An ICE hold is a request from ICE to a local law enforcement agency to detain an individual on ICE’s behalf for up to 48 hours, so that federal authorities can come take the person into custody. ICE issues these requests to hold all types of people...

The Obama administration detained and deported more than 400,000 people in 2013, separating countless families, funneling thousands of children into the foster care system, and hurting local economies that rely on immigrant labor. The keystone of the detention and deportation infrastructure is something known as an “ICE detainer” or “ICE hold.” An ICE hold is a request from ICE to a local law enforcement agency to detain an individual on ICE’s behalf for up to 48 hours, so that federal authorities can come take the person into custody. ICE issues these requests to hold all types of people with outstanding immigration issues, from recent immigrants to longtime permanent residents with green cards. Many localities are unaware that an ICE hold is merely a request, not an order, and that it is up to the discretion of each local law enforcement agency whether or not to honor an ICE hold request. 

Increasingly, state and local policy makers are recognizing that using local resources to enforce federal immigration law is bad policy. Not only is it expensive to incarcerate people on ICE’s behalf, it also diverts law enforcement personnel time that should be spent responding to the public safety needs of the community.

When local police participate in the enforcement of our broken federal immigration law, it sows distrust in communities and deters immigrant residents, from accessing vital health and educational services, reporting crimes, and participating in civic life. A recent wave of court decisions have held that localities that hold individuals on an immigration detainer without a finding of probable cause are risking 4th Amendment liability. This has helped to build momentum against detainer compliance around the country, and today over 250 jurisdictions have passed laws or policies limiting the circumstances in which local law enforcement will honor detainer requests. In addition to the many city and county level policies, the states of California, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland also have laws or policies limiting detainer compliance at the state level. In November 2014, CPD was instrumental in the passage of updated legislation prohibiting New York City from honoring any detainers without a judicial warrant, and limiting federal immigration authorities’ access to immigrants at Rikers Island Jail, where ICE had maintained an office, rent free, for over a decade.

CPD played an important role in the campaigns to pass detainer policies in New York City, Connecticut, Suffolk County on Long Island, Middlesex County, NJ, and Newark, NJ, and is working with local partners to monitor the implementation of the detainer policies in those places. CPD is also working in coalition to expand detainer discretion throughout New Jersey.  One of the broadest and most inclusive of the local detainer policies to date, the Newark policy, draws a bright line separating local police functions from federal immigration enforcement, and does not discriminate on the basis of past criminal convictions. The coalition hopes that the Newark policy will serve as a model for counties throughout New Jersey considering the impact of detainers on their communities.

Through the national Trust Act Coalition, coordinated by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), we communicate regularly with other advocates working on detainer discretion campaigns around the country to share experiences and discuss strategy.

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