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.