Immigration detainers have become a prominent issue in the ban on Texas-based sanctuary cities and the showdown between Gov. Greg Abbott and Travis County Sherriff Sally Hernandez. The county is part of a 300-member contingent of law enforcement agencies nationwide vowing to limit cooperation with notifications that could lead to deportation.
The Trump administration is allied with Abbott in possibly using immigration detainers to increase deportations. Many believe that efforts will match and likely exceed 2011 when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued nearly 310,000 of the documents. Texas alone accounted for 52,000.
What Is An Immigration Detainer?
An immigration detainer is a notification sent to law enforcement from ICE that requests detainment of an individual for 48 hours following their normal release time. After an individual is booked into jail, the FBI receives the fingerprints and shares the information with ICE. If a database check shows a person is an undocumented immigrant who is deportable, ICE issues the detainer.
Upon receipt, the state or local jail must contact ICE prior to release so officers can potentially take the person into custody.
Deportation is not automatic. In fact, only 15 percent of immigration detainers have resulted in removals. Half the time, ICE agents issued the request without following up. Many cite administrative errors or confusion over identifying information that resulted in the placement of detainers on U.S. citizens.
Immigration law specifically defines detainers as requests. Federal court cases have ruled that they are options. The efforts by Texas Republican leaders and President Trump’s January 25 executive order would add consequences for non-compliance.
For local law enforcement agencies, cooperation already comes at a significant cost. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards reported that expenses for detainers cost county jails $60 million in 2015.