A new report using records obtained from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) found that between 2008 and 2012, ICE issued nearly 1 million “detainers,” or “detention hold” requests asking local, state or federal authorities to detain a suspected undocumented immigrant. According to the report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse out of Syracuse University known as TRAC, which gathers data on government activities, these detainers ended up including over 800 American citizens and over 28,000 legal permanent residents.
The report also found that in more than two out of three (77.4 percent) detainers issued, the individual identified had no criminal record. Of the remaining 22.6 percent who had a criminal record, only 8.6 percent were classified as a Level 1 offense, though some records show some of those Level 1 offenders had committed traffic violations or illegal entry and not serious crimes.
Responding to the report’s release, Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), stated, “The Obama Administration’s policy of using police as immigration ‘force multipliers’ through programs like Secure Communities has violated civil rights, imperiled public safety, and compounded injustice.”
But ICE deputy press secretary Gillian Christensen stated: “As the TRAC report itself notes, its conclusions are based on data that dates back four years, prior to many of ICE’s enforcement reforms including the new detainer guidance issued by the agency on Dec. 21.” The new guidelines, Christensen added, restrict ICE detentions for minor traffic violations or misdemeanors, and attempt to focus on more serious crimes.Immigration authorities can issue detainers if they suspect someone may be in the country illegally, and there are guidelines on how long a person can be held and under what circumstances.
The TRAC report does not have information on how many detainers were lifted or how many people were eventually deported. It is illegal for authorities to detain U.S. citizens. The report found almost 3,500 facilities received one or more ICE detainers.
The NDLON says it is calling on the Senate to hold hearings on the use of detainers.