What to do if you are placed in an ICE detention center

Being placed in an ICE detention center can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, especially for those unfamiliar with the US immigration system. The purpose of being held in a detention center is to secure the presence of non-citizens for immigration proceedings or removal from the United States. Individuals apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are normally placed in removal proceedings and may be detained in one of the more than 200 jails and detention centers that make up ICE’s detention system. 

However, it is important to remember that you have rights and resources available to you. In this article, we will discuss what you should do if you are placed in a detention center, including the latest updates to ICE priority, the rights of detainees, and the rules that detainees should be aware of.

Latest updates to ICE priority

Understanding the priorities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the first step in assessing your situation if you are at risk of detention. By being aware of these priorities, you can better determine why you may have been detained and the potential pathways for your release. Reports from 2022 show that ICE conducted nearly 1,430,000 immigration arrests, 67% of which were non-citizens without criminal convictions. Daily in 2022, about 22,600 were detained, down from an average high of 50,200 daily in 2019. However, efforts have been made in 2023 to shift ICE priorities. 

As of the writing of this article, ICE has officially reinstated the Mayorkas Enforcement Priorities and Doyle Memo. This means that ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers will continue focusing their priorities on removable fugitive non-citizens, specifically those with criminal convictions. However, new data analysis reveals that ICE’s enforcement activities contradicted the Biden administration’s prioritization guidelines. For instance, ICE continued to pursue immigrants who aren’t security risks for deportation, upholding the ICE priorities of former US President Donald Trump’s administration.

It’s essential to keep in mind that immigration policies and priorities can change, so staying informed about the latest updates is crucial. Monitor news sources, consult immigration attorneys, or contact immigrant advocacy organizations for information on the current state of immigration enforcement. The landscape may shift, and new avenues for relief or release may become available.

Factors that affect the likelihood of detention by ICE

The likelihood of a non-citizen being detained by ICE depends on various factors, including their immigration status, criminal history, and the discretion of ICE officers. 

Some reasons include:

  1. Committing a crime: If a non-citizen commits a crime, they may be detained by ICE. This includes both violent and non-violent crimes.
  2. Arriving at the border: Non-citizens who arrive without proper documentation may be detained by ICE. This includes those who are seeking asylum.
  3. Discretionary detention: ICE may exercise its discretion to detain a non-citizen who is not subject to mandatory detention or is not deemed to be a public safety or flight risk.
  4. Pending deportation: The non-citizen has received an outstanding removal or deportation order on record or has missed prior hearing dates in Immigration Court.

Rights of detainees

One of the most vital aspects of your journey through immigration detention is understanding and asserting your rights. These rights protect your dignity, ensure fair treatment, and safeguard your access to due process. The right to remain silent is a powerful tool during interrogations. Use it wisely when questioned by immigration authorities. Be respectful but firm in asserting your right to remain silent, especially if you fear that your answers could be self-incriminating.

The right to an attorney is fundamental. While immigration authorities are not obligated to provide you with an attorney, you should seek legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you navigate the complex immigration system, build a strong defense, and advocate for your release.

Due process is a cornerstone of the US legal system, and it applies to immigration proceedings as well. This means you have the right to a fair and timely hearing before an immigration judge. Including the opportunity to present your case, submit evidence, and argue for your release or relief from deportation.

As a detainee, you have certain rights that are protected by law. These rights include:

  • The right to remain silent: You have the right to refuse to answer any questions from ICE or other law enforcement officials. You can say, “I want to remain silent,” or “I want to speak to a lawyer.”
  • The right to an attorney: You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you in your immigration case. 
  • The right to medical care: You have the right to receive medical care if you are sick or injured while in detention.
  • The right to religious practice: You have the right to practice your religion while in detention.
  • The right to be free from abuse and mistreatment: You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect while in detention. If you are mistreated or abused by detention staff, you should report the incident immediately.

ICE detention center rules

Detention centers have strict rules and regulations that detainees must adhere to. Understanding and complying with these rules is essential for your well-being and can influence your overall experience in custody. Do not possess or smuggle contraband into the detention center. Prohibited items like weapons, drugs, or unauthorized communication devices can have severe consequences, including extended detention or additional charges.

Maintaining respect for detention center staff and fellow detainees is critical. Avoid confrontations or aggressive behavior, which can lead to disciplinary actions and negatively impact your legal case. Following daily schedules for meals, recreation, and medical appointments is essential. Compliance with schedules demonstrates your commitment to cooperating with detention center authorities and immigration proceedings.

Participate actively in your legal proceedings. Attend all immigration court hearings and meetings with your attorney. Your active involvement is crucial for building a strong case for your release or relief from deportation. If you encounter problems with staff, other detainees, or your living conditions, report them promptly to detention center authorities. Your safety and well-being should be a top priority, and reporting issues can help address concerns effectively.

What to expect while detained

Understanding what to expect while detained can help you mentally and emotionally prepare for the challenges ahead. Detention centers operate within specific guidelines, but your individual experience may vary based on the facility, your personal circumstances, and the current immigration policies.

You can anticipate limited freedom of movement within the detention center. Daily routines, confinement to specific areas, and restricted access to the outside world are common aspects of detention life. However, building a social support network within the detention center can provide emotional and psychological relief. Fellow detainees with similar experiences can offer companionship and understanding during this challenging time.

Your legal proceedings will be a central focus during your time in detention. Be prepared for hearings, meetings with immigration authorities, and consultations with your attorney. These are significant steps in your journey to resolve your immigration status. Take advantage of the legal resources available to you. Consult an attorney to understand your case and the potential options for release or relief. Knowledge is power, and your attorney can guide you through the legal process.

Depending on the detention center’s policies, you may have the opportunity for visitation from friends and family. Maintaining connections with your loved ones can provide emotional support and a sense of connection to the outside world.

Visiting or locating someone in an ICE detention center

Different detention centers have different visitation policies. Commonly, detained immigrants are allowed a limited number of visitors during visiting hours on certain days of the week. Some detention centers allow “contact visits,” where you are permitted to meet with the detained person in the same room and have limited physical contact with them, such as hugging or holding hands. However, these types of visits are rare. More often, visitors are permitted only “non-contact” visits in which they must talk through plexiglass windows or by videophone. 

To find out more about a detention center’s visitation policy and hours, you can search the ICE website for the detention facility you would like to visit. It is important to note that detention centers generally place further restrictions on visitation for detained immigrants in administrative segregation. Contact visits are usually conducted inside the unit in a designated visiting area or outside the main building, within the fenced perimeter.

Here are some things to know about locating and visiting someone in an ICE detention center:

  1. Use the Online Detainee Locator System: The Online Detainee Locator System is the best way to locate someone who ICE has detained. This system can be accessed 24 hours a day and will provide information about the facility where the person is being held.
  2. Contact an ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field office: If you cannot find the person you are looking for through the online system, you can contact an ICE ERO field office for assistance.
  3. Contact the detention facility directly: If you know the facility where the person is being held, you can contact the facility directly for information about visiting and contacting the person.
  4. Know the person’s A-number: When contacting ICE or the detention facility, it is helpful to have the person’s A-number, a unique identifier assigned to each non-citizen by the Department of Homeland Security.
  5. Follow the facility’s rules for visiting: Each detention facility has its own rules for visiting, so it is important to check with the facility before visiting. Some facilities require visitors to make an appointment in advance, while others allow walk-in visits.
  6. Bring identification: When visiting someone in a detention center, you will need to bring identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.

How to get released from an ICE detention center

Being detained at an ICE detention center does not necessarily mean immediate deportation. If your continued detention is not ruled mandatory, you may be qualified for release if ICE assesses that you are not a public safety or flight risk. According to the American Immigration Council, following this assessment, you may be eligible for one of the following options:

  • ICE may release an individual on their own recognizance, meaning that they sign paperwork committing to appear for scheduled immigration court hearings;
  • ICE may release an individual on Orders of Supervision (OSUP). OSUPs contain additional conditions of release, such as electronic monitoring (i.e., wearing a GPS ankle monitor), periodically reporting to an ICE officer in person or by telephone, and travel restrictions. Conditions of supervision may involve ICE’s Intensive Supervised Appearance Program (ISAP). These conditions, used separately or in conjunction with one another, and are collectively referred to as “alternatives to detention” (ATD);
  • ICE may require someone to post a monetary bond (similar to bail in the criminal context) to secure release. The immigration laws require a minimum bond of $1,500, but bond amounts can be as high as tens of thousands of US dollars or
  • ICE may release an individual on parole, which is permission to reside in the United States for a finite period of time. ICE also may place a parolee on an OSUP, requiring them to meet certain conditions to remain on parole.

If ICE denies the request for release, the individual may ask an immigration judge to order either release or a reduction of the bond amount. This request may be made orally, in writing, or, at the immigration court’s discretion, by telephone. The likelihood of non-citizens being released from detention increases when they have legal representation. An attorney can help to argue for release on bond or on their own recognizance or can help to challenge the basis for detention. Under an “order of recognizance,” an individual is released with reporting requirements while in deportation proceedings and awaiting a final decision. 

Family or community support can also help secure release from detention. Family members or community organizations can provide housing, transportation, and other support that may be necessary for release. In some cases, organizations may purchase bus tickets for released detainees to travel to a city where they have family or friends who can receive them. 

It is important to note that eligibility requirements for release on recognizance may vary depending on the individual’s circumstances and the discretion of ICE officials. Additionally, the process of requesting release from ICE detention can be complex and challenging and may require the assistance of an attorney or community organization. To obtain release from an ICE detention facility, it is important to understand the options available and seek appropriate legal and community support.

Looking for Immigration Help?

Stump & Associates is Oklahoma City’s most respected immigration law firm. With more than 30 years of experience, we know how to handle cases just like yours.

Learn More

Comments are closed