Syracuse University's TRAC immigration has sifted through 50 months worth of data spanning back to Fiscal Year 2008 finding that during this period ICE issued almost one million immigration detainers to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Statistics show that 72.7% of all individuals that were the subject of an immigration detainer were citizens of Mexico.
When an immigration detainer (immigration hold) is issued law enforcement agents are required to turn over a suspect to the Department of Homeland Security for the purpose of instituting removal proceedings upon conclusion of the criminal investigation (i.e., traffic stop) or the ultimate disposition of the criminal matter if a crime is charged. More than 3,500 local, state and federal agencies have received at least one detainer since 2008.
It should be noted that an individual suspected of an immigration violation does not need to be convicted of a crime, nor be subject to removal under a criminally related ground for an immigration hold to be issued. All that is required is that law enforcement suspect the individual subject to a criminal investigation is in violation of U.S. immigration law.
TRAC determined that:
In more than two out of three (77.4%) of the detainers issued by ICE, the record shows that the individual who had been identified had no criminal record — either at the time the detainer was issued or subsequently. For the remaining 22.6 percent that had a criminal record, only 8.6 percent of the charges were classified as a Level 1 offense.
TRAC has been stymied by the administration who "inexplicably withheld" information that further breaks down the 22.6% criminal record statistic. As for the nature of the crimes that result in an individual being classified as "serious" offender, TRAC previously determined that:
[T]he ICE basis for classifying individuals as "serious" offenders — that is, Level 1 — appears to be flawed, since their records show that all too often the most serious Level 1 offenders have only been convicted of traffic violations and immigration violations (illegal entry) rather than some more serious offense. Accordingly, it appears likely that far fewer than even this small proportion of 8.6 percent actually would meet the more objective standards of having been convicted of crimes that pose a serious threat to national security or public safety.
To add insult to injury, TRAC determined that since FY 2008 ICE has issued immigration detainers against 834 United States citizens.
Click here to read the rest of TRAC's report. It is certainly worth your time.
Matthew Kolken is a trial lawyer with experience in all aspects of United States Immigration Law including Immigration Courts throughout the United States, and appellate practice before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the U.S. District Courts, and U.S. Courts of Appeals. He is admitted to practice in the courts of the State of New York , the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).