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Arrest and Detention by ICE

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018 (last modified Oct 25, 2019)

Under what circumstances can an undocumented immigrant be arrested by ICE?

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may arrest a noncitizen for alleged violations of immigration laws.  Noncitizens may come to the attention of ICE in a variety of ways, such as being arrested by a local law enforcement agency (even on a minor offense or simple traffic violation) with their names showing up on a computer database accessible to ICE or during a work place raid.

ICE may also go to the noncitizen's home, work, or school. If a noncitizen is already in jail and comes to the ICE's attention, ICE may visit to conduct an interview or may place a detainer on the noncitizen. In that case, ICE's detainer will be good for 48 hours. If the noncitizen is going through a criminal proceeding, an ICE agent may show up when the noncitizen reports to the court or to the probation office.

Warning. Never miss a court date because you fear ICE.  Consult your attorney regarding the possibilities.

Finally, ICE regularly patrols areas within 100 miles of the U.S. international land border and may apprehend undocumented immigrants in the course of its patrols.

Note. A great majority of noncitizens who go through removal proceeding are never arrested or detained. If you came into the United States through a port of entry, were admitted into the country after inspection, have not tried to hide, and have not committed a serious criminal offense, most likely you will never see an ICE agent.  Even if the government decides to deport you, you will receive a Notice to Appear (NTA) in the mail.

What happens after ICE arrests a noncitizen?

If you are arrested by ICE, your first fear may be that ICE may deport you right away.  With a limited exception, see Expedited Removals, you will be entitled to due process. You will not be deported automatically, unless you consent to it.  To eventually deport you, ICE will need to bring a removal proceeding in the immigration court and a judge must issue a removal order.

Some of those arrested by ICE may be detained, meaning that ICE may place them in a detention center, jail, or prison, until they can be taken before an immigration judge. Other persons arrested by ICE may be released on bond. See Immigration Bond.  In either case, ICE will initiate a removal proceeding against the arrestee.

How does a removal (deportation) proceeding start?

To start a removal (deportation) proceeding, ICE will give you a Notice to Appear (NTA), which would list the charges and allegations that would support removal (deportation).  The first hearing will be in a few weeks.  See Removal Proceedings.  For those who are detained, the first hearing will be scheduled sooner.

Note that if the noncitizen arrested by ICE is already subject to an existing removal (deportation) order which has become final, ICE may simply enforce that order and deport the noncitizen without a new removal proceeding.

Should I talk to ICE agents or sign the papers that they give me?

If you are questioned or detained by ICE, you should be careful about the statements you make and the papers you sign. If you answer questions from ICE agents, you must do so truthfully.  Do not volunteer information, but provide truthful and complete answers to the questions you answer.  If you are not sure about something, have a complicated immigration history, or a criminal record, you may decline to answer questions until you have retained an attorney.  Remember anything that you say can be used against you.

Never sign the documents that you do not understand, even if they are in your native language.  ICE is required to provide you with documents in a language you understand.  If needed ask for a translator. If you still do not understand, refuse to sign the documents.  You may wait until you have retained an attorney before taking any action on the documents.

Note. Do not mistakenly sign documents to waive your rights or consent to removal.

Do ICE detainees have the right to use telephone?

Yes. Those arrested by ICE are entitled to one (1) free local call.  After that, they may call at their own cost or by making collect calls.

The facility where the detainees are held may be far from where they or their family and friends live. So, making a local call may not be a useful option.  Furthermore, each facility has a different policy for visitation and allowing phone calls.

If you are detained by ICE and call friends and family, first ensure that they know the following information, which they would need to locate you:

  • Your A- number (the Alien Registration Number), if any.
  • Your country of birth.
  • The location at which you were arrested.
  • The location at which you are detained.
  • The complete spelling of your name, as it appears on your detainee record
  • Your birth date.

Remember that detainees may not have access to their cell phones to look up phone numbers.  Therefore, it may be advisable to memorize some emergency numbers that you may need to use at some future point.

Note. Keep in mind that, except for attorney calls on specifically designated phones, almost all calls from detention facilities are likely recorded. Any information exchanged on these phone calls may be used against you at a later date.

Do ICE detainees have the right to call their home country's consul?

Yes. Detainees may call their home country's consulate and request assistance or a visit.  They can ask ICE to provide the contact information or help them contact their home country's consulate. The consul may assist in reaching family and friends or in retaining an attorney.

Where does ICE incarcerate its detainees?

ICE operates some detention facilities in parts of the United States.  Often, ICE places its detainees with county jails and private prison facilities.  To locate ICE detention facilities, use ICE Detention Facility Locator.

How can a person detained by ICE be located?

ICE operates an online detainee locator. See ICE Detainee Locator.  The information would be available within a few hours of arrest. However, no online information is available for detainees under the age of 18. To locate a young detainee, call an ICE office near the place where you believe the young person was arrested.  See ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Field Offices.  If ICE has taken a detainee to a local jail, see ICE Detention Facility Locator, you can call that particular jail or check their online inmate locator.

Related Topics:

Immigration Bond

Undocumented Immigrants

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Removal Proceeding Procedure & Defenses

Removal Proceedings

Grounds for Removal

Expedited Removal


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