By Jorge Rivas
March 24, 2017
Immigration officials have issued a new “detainer form” that could sweep up even more undocumented immigrants into the Trump administration’s deportation force.
The detainer forms are commonly sent to local police jurisdiction by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials when they’re interested in taking custody of an inmate in a local or state jail.
The previous detainer policy recommended ICE officials issue detainers when an undocumented immigrant had a prior conviction, like a felony, three or more misdemeanor convictions, or had been caught illegally re-entering the U.S. after being deported.
The new detainer policy, set to go into effect April 2, 2017, includes no detailed guidance, which means ICE could send local police a detainer for any “subject” they believe “is removable from the United States.”
“The new detainer policy is the latest weapon in Donald Trump’s war on immigrants and the constitution,” said Tania Unzueta, legal and policy director for Mijente, a political organizing group focusing on issues that affect Latinx and Chicanx, in a statement sent to Fusion.
Unzueta said this new detainer form could be used as a universal blanket for anyone suspected of being undocumented.
ICE officials say the new detainer form was created to fulfill the requirement of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s February 20, 2017 memo that proposed eliminating “the existing detainer forms and replace them with a new form to more effectively communicate with recipient law enforcement agencies.”
The vast majority of immigrants in ICE custody are transferred from other law enforcement agencies using detainer requests —not as a result of ICE raids, which have made national headlines since President Donald Trump took office. Between 2014 and 2016, only one of every five of ICE’s 1,250 weekly arrest and deportations were connected to a raid.
Unzueta said the new detainer policy “shows the urgency for transforming policing practices so that fewer people are placed into Trump’s dragnet.”
In response to Fusion’s request for comment on this story, ICE sent the following statement that does not appear to address questions of whether this revised detainer policy could lead to the change of custody of more immigrants:
ICE places detainers on aliens who have been arrested on local criminal charges and for whom ICE possesses probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States, so that ICE can take custody of the alien when he or she is released from local custody. When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.
In late January, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders aimed at at cracking down on undocumented immigrant communities in the United States. Nestled within one of them was an ominous directive to “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”
(A “detainer” is a request by ICE for local authorities to keep people in custody for an extra period of time. Essentially, it’s a way of keeping undocumented immigrants in jail for a few days longer so they can decide if they want to arrest them.)
This effort to criminalize foreigners drew comparisons to Nazi Germany by some observers.
Now, for the first time since Trump signed his executive order, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency has released its inaugural “Declined Detainer Outcome Report,” and promised more to come.
“This report will be issued weekly to highlight jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with ICE detainers or requests for notification, therefore potentially endangering Americans,” a press release accompanying the report announced on Monday.
The DDOR itself covers the time frame between January 28 and February 3 of this year. It is divided into four sections:
Section I: Highest Volume of Detainers Issued to Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions between January 28, 2017, and February 3, 2017
Section II: Jurisdictions with Recorded Declined Detainers Broken Down by Individuals Released between January 28, 2017, and February 3, 2017
Section III: Table of Jurisdictions that have Enacted Policies which Limit Cooperation with ICE
Section IV: Report Scope and Data Fidelity
Inside, the report lists the locations and crimes allegedly committed by undocumented individuals, as well as their country of origin, and the dates upon which ICE requested–and was denied—detainers. It does not include individual names.
In addition to a comprehensive list of all the municipalities which have enacted some form of sanctuary policy, the report also highlights the top 10 sanctuary counties which have the highest number of detainer requests made by the agency.
The White House has long used the specter of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to rally support for his harsh crackdown on those communities. During the president’s first address to a joint session of congress, First Lady Melania Trump was accompanied by the families of three people reportedly killed by undocumented immigrants.
“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission,” Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said in a statement.
However, there’s scant evidence to support the assertion that immigrant communities face increased crime rates. In fact, it’s just the opposite—immigrants are less likely to break the law than the general population, and immigrant communities often see a decline in violent crime rates.
When news broke last week that immigration officials were conducting nationwide raids, many responded with shock, but the government claimed nothing was out of the ordinary.
“The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in a statement commending the agency’s efforts.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City areas arrested more than 680 individuals over the course of five days. These individuals, mostly men, were arrested at their place of work, private residences, or other public places they may have been when they were tracked down by ICE fugitive teams.
The detentions were indeed business as usual for the ICE Fugitive Operations teams—last week’s raids were them in turbo mode. The agency detained roughly two and a half times more immigrants last week than they do in the average week.
Immigrants rights activists say that these raid operations that result in a surge in arrests are orchestrated simultaneously around the country to induce fear into the community. And they may finally have some data to support those claims.
According to a report published this week of records obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, ICE fugitive operations teams arrests and deport about 250 individuals per week, meaning one of every five of ICE’s 1,250 weekly arrest and deportations were connected to a raid.
The TRAC report found the vast majority of immigrants are transferred to ICE custody from other law enforcement agencies—not as a result of ICE agents knocking on someone’s door seeking to arrest the person that lives there.
For decades, local law enforcement agencies have submitted fingerprints to the FBI to confirm identities and any previous criminal records. ICE began formally sifting through the fingerprint database after 2008 when a program called “Secure Communities” was introduced under the administration of George W. Bush and vastly expanded under Barack Obama in 2011.
Immigrant rights activists have criticized the controversial “Secure Communities” program because it led to the deportation of immigrants who had committed minor infractions, like traffic violations. Independent researchers found the program had “not served its central objective of making communities safer.” Obama ended the program in 2014 but Trump relaunched the program five days into his presidency, on January 25.
“ICE became aware of these arrests since all fingerprints local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies submit to the FBI are now automatically passed along to ICE. ICE checks these against its records to see if the individual may be deportable,” the TRAC report reads.
TRAC says the data in their report was obtained from ICE in response to hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests, appeals, and a successful lawsuit.
The group says the data presented in the report now provides immigrant rights leaders and attorneys a baseline against which arrests under the new Trump administration can be compared.
ICE did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Despite the fact that the majority of ICE detainees are transferred into their custody, leaders in the immigrant rights movement say it’s raid operations like last week’s surge that hit immigrant communities with a massive wave of fear and panic.
“The Trump regime has emboldened ICE agents who are creating a climate of extreme fear and anxiety,” said Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led organization.
Bill Ong Hing, an immigration law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, said the latest raids have caused more panic in immigrant communities because they come after months of Trump promising a so-called deportation force on the campaign trail. Then as president, he introduced a travel ban and other immigration executive orders, leading many to interpret the raids as the beginning of the deportation force Trump warned of during the election.
“[ICE] wants to scare the hell out of people, they want people to live in fear,” said Hing.
Hing, who also runs the Deportation Defense Clinic at the law school, added: “Many people have always lived with fear and they led their lives with caution, but this could discourage people from coming out of their homes.”
The anxiety isn’t unfounded considering the Obama administration deported more immigrants than any other president. Experts say Trump could target five times the number of immigrants Obama prioritized for deportation.
“We don’t know where the next immigration raids will be. We don’t know what they will try next to silence and control us,” Cristina Jimenez, of United We Dream, said in a statement.
She went on to say, “Where they attack us, we will grow stronger. Our courage, determination and creativity will prevail.”
Immigration officials have finally acknowledged they arrested 680 immigrants in a five-day nationwide operation that sparked fear and panic in immigrant communities across the country.
The raids were conducted in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City, according to a Homeland Security statement issued by Secretary John Kelly. Officials did not explain why these locations were targeted but said plans were underway before President Donald Trump issued his immigration executive orders.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials initially denied the agency was conducting any operations that were out of the ordinary, despite officers arresting hundreds of immigrants at homes and in public spaces across the country. ICE officials said they didn’t comment on the arrests earlier because the operations were not completed.
ICE said 75% of those arrested were “criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.” It is not clear who the remaining 25% of detainees are but there were reports of bystanders being picked up when they could not prove they were in the U.S. with proper authorization.
In Southern California, there were 161 people detained in what David Marin, field office director for ICE enforcement and removal operations in the Los Angeles area, described as an “enforcement surge.”
In the South, there were 192 people detained in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
In Texas, ICE reports there were 51 arrests in the San Antonio area. Of the 51 individuals arrested, 23 had criminal convictions.
ICE officials also arrested 235 individuals in six midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas, and Missouri.
There were also 40 individuals detained in the five boroughs of New York City.
“Shame on ICE for putting New York’s immigrant communities—four million strong—in a state of panic,” said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, in a statement.
While ICE officials arrested some immigrants at private residences, there were others who were arrested on busy streets in plain view of the public, triggering a confusion and panic in immigrant communities.
In Los Angeles, at least five officers arrested a man in a parking lot near a Van’s shoe store on Whittier Boulevard. ICE officials were specifically targeting the man they arrested, but in a community that is predominantly Latinx, the scene of a group of officers carrying large guns and wearing vests that read “POLICE ICE” in capital letters is alarming. The arrest Tuesday took place during the day, just two blocks away from an elementary school.
In Austin, ICE officials arrested a man in an H.E.B. grocery store parking lot while someone broadcasted the scene live on Facebook. The video posted Friday morning had more than half a million views by the end of the day.
The panic allowed for rumors of ICE visiting K–12 public schools in Austin to thrive. The Mexican Consulate in Austin told KVUE some people were taken into custody at schools but ICE officials maintain they did not conduct checkpoints or random arrests. Fusion could not independently verify reports ICE agents were visiting schools.
At the end of the school day on Friday, the students were reportedly sent home with a flyer telling parents what to do in the event ICE agents showed up at their door.
The five-day nationwide raid is not unprecedented. In March 2015, under the Obama administration, ICE detained 2,059 immigrants as part of what they called operation “Cross Check.”
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com