Contact: Tara Tidwell Cullen | | (312) 660-1337


CHICAGO (February 16, 2012) – Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) has publicly posted data on every U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer issued from 2007 through September 2010. The data, received through a Freedom of Information Act request, provides useful information on the police encounters that led to individuals’ arrests and the number of detainers ICE issued to each local law enforcement agency.

View the list of data to download at

The detainer data is valuable for communities attempting to estimate the expenses local law enforcement incur to fulfill the federal government’s immigration enforcement objectives. Immigration advocates have already used the data to push Los Angeles to adopt its own immigration detainer policy.

What are immigration detainers?
When local police arrest an individual that ICE believes may be deportable, it often will issue an immigration detainer, or hold, which instructs local police that it must hold the individual for an additional 48 hours or longer, so that ICE may assume physical custody of the individual. ICE does not provide any compensation for the additional time in local custody. Through programs like Secure Communities, ICE has dramatically increased its interior immigration enforcement by co-opting state and local law enforcements’ criminal investigations and arrests through the use of detainers.

Why are detainers harmful?
In recent years, communities have begun to realize that their cooperation on federal immigration enforcement is draining limited law enforcement, while impeding police’s ability to keep their communities safe. Two recent studies conducted in Travis County, Texas and New York City have found that individuals with immigration detainers lodged against them on average spend an additional 43 to 72 days in pre-trial custody with little to no compensation from the federal government. In the process, ICE has cast its nets wide to ensnare mostly non-criminals or very minor offenders, making every local police encounter an immigration enforcement opportunity. Immigrant communities responded in fear by not coming forward to cooperate with police when they are victims and witnesses to crime.

How this data can help communities respond
Understanding the cost to local taxpayers has played an important role in educating law enforcement and policy makers about why ICE detainers are problematic. A number of municipalities around the country have taken action to strike a better balance between criminal law enforcement and ICE’s indiscriminate immigration enforcement. Cook County, Illinois, and Santa Clara County, California, passed local ordinances declining to honor immigration detainers unless ICE reimburses them for the costs associated with the additional detention. These counties have galvanized advocates across the country to duplicate those efforts in their own communities.

For more information regarding this data, or to tell NIJC how you are using it in your community, please contact NIJC’s National Litigation Coordinator Mark Fleming at

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit

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