On December 29, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency announced several new measures to better inform detained individuals about their rights, including a telephone hotline that a U.S. citizen or crime victim detainee can call to report being unlawfully held on immigration-related grounds.
The telephone hotline is a toll-free number – (855) 448-6903 – that connects to ICE staffers at the Law Enforcement Support Center. Translation services for a number of languages are made available between 7 a.m. and midnight, Eastern time, seven days a week. Callers can describe their situation, and the staffer will pass it on to the appropriate field office, which will take immediate action.
Under the new ICE policy, individuals being held by local law enforcement organizations will receive a notice 48 hours prior to being taken into ICE custody on an immigration detainer. A number of federal programs, such as Secure Communities, facilitate information sharing between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities regarding individuals in custody. If ICE believes an arrestee is in violation of federal immigration laws, the organization can issue a detainer to keep that person in custody after the time when he or she would be released by local police.
The notification of a pending immigration detainer will also inform a recipient about the process for filing a civil rights or civil liberties complaint regarding any treatment perceived to be unjust.
A number of recent reports, including a New York University Immigrants Rights Clinic analysis of New York state border patrol activities, have shown that hard-line immigration laws and questionable but entrenched enforcement practices have increased the number of U.S. citizens unlawfully detained for alleged immigration infractions.
The NYU report detailed how New York border patrol agents commonly board buses and trains, demanding proof of citizenship status from passengers who appear to be Latino or from another minority group. The report stated, “These ‘show me your papers’ tactics belong in a police state, not the world’s oldest democracy.”