Latest ICE Data on Detainer Usage Updated Through April 2018
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has long claimed that detainers, often called "immigration holds," are an essential tool needed to apprehend and deport individuals not authorized to remain in the U.S. These official ICE requests ask local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to not release certain noncitizens held at their facilities in order to give ICE an opportunity to take them into its custody and initiate deportation steps.
Newly released ICE data—updated through April 2018—reveal ICE continues to issue around 14,000 new detainers on average each month. This is well below peak levels under President Obama when over 20,000 detainers were prepared monthly by ICE. While ICE detainer usage is up since the FY 2015-2016 period when ICE's Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) was in place, ICE's current use of detainers is well below the levels existing during the FY 2009 - FY 2014 Secure Communities era under President Obama.
The pace under President Trump shows no indication of returning to these higher detainer usage levels. The current pace has been roughly steady over the latest fifteen month period of available data. See Figure 1.
What ICE Records Indicate on Detainers That Are "Refused"
These ICE records also identify local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies (LEAs) recorded as refusing a detainer. The latest data ICE released shows that a total of 609 individual LEAs refused one or more detainers during the period February 2017 - April 2018. ICE doesn't record the reason for the refusal. This is a significant omission since it should not be expected that ICE custody should always take priority over that of the LEAs. During this period ICE records show that even federal LEAs refuse ICE detainers on occasion. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons refused to honor ICE detainer requests on 14 separate occasions during this same period.
Four out of ten (241) of these LEAs according to ICE "refused" just a single detainer request. And only one out of five (133) of the LEAs was recorded as refusing 10 or more detainer requests.
LEAs with the most recent recorded refusals were concentrated in New York and California. First on the list was Queens County Central Booking in New York City, followed by Brooklyn Central Booking also in New York City. In third place was the Santa Clara County Main Jail in California. The "top ten" law enforcement agencies recorded refusing the most requests during FY 2018 are listed in Table 1.
It is important to note that ICE recorded twice as many detainers addressed to these "Top Ten" LEAs listed in Table 1 than were recorded as refused. Refusal rates varied widely among these LEAs. The Los Angeles County Jail, for example, is recorded as having the largest number of detainers addressed to it - 1,560 during this four month period. However, these same records show only 181 or 12 percent recorded as refused.
In contrast, two out of three detainer requests addressed to Queens and Brooklyn Central Booking were recorded as refused. And the two LEAs in Santa Clara County showed refusal rates of over 90 percent.
In assessing these numbers it is important to keep in mind that there is substantial reason to doubt whether ICE refusal records are either complete or accurate. See TRAC's August 2016 report.
Indeed, ICE itself has conceded their records are unreliable. ICE initially issued three weekly reports on refused detainers using these records, following then Secretary Kelly's February 20, 2017 directive calling for publication of the names of LEAs that refused to honor detainer requests. However, ICE then abruptly discontinued these reports after local jurisdictions identified numerous errors in them. The last report covered the February 11 - 17, 2017 period. Over a year ago the agency posted a notice on its public website stating:
"ICE remains committed to publishing the most accurate information available regarding declined detainers across the country and continues to analyze and refine its reporting methodologies. While this analysis is ongoing, the publication of the Declined Detainer Outcome Report (DDOR) will be temporarily suspended."
This notice remains on ICE's website and publication of these reports has not resumed.
ICE Withholding of Vital Details on Detainers Continues
ICE continues to withhold a host of details on what happens after a detainer is issued. Was the individual ever taken into custody by ICE or eventually deported? We don't know because ICE refuses to release these details.
Further, the agency is also now refusing to release any information on whether the subjects of ICE detainers had ever been convicted of a crime or, for those convicted, their most serious criminal offense.
While ICE used to regularly release all of this information to TRAC, in January 2017 the agency stopped providing it. TRAC is now in federal court seeking a court order to compel ICE to continue to provide this information. See: http://trac.syr.edu/foia/ice/20170509/. In this lawsuit ICE is vigorously resisting the data's release. While it admits that the information is not exempt from public disclosure, it argues it is not required to release it and cannot be compelled to do so.
Web Query Tool Now Updated with the Latest Data
Accompanying this report are details of the ICE detainer-by-detainer records that TRAC has compiled, also updated through April 2018. An online web tool allows users to examine month-by-month the number of ICE detainers since January 2017 addressed to each of 3,774 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, along with those recorded as refused. The tool allows users to focus on the most recent months, or examine the entire period from October 2002 through April 2018.
A second web tool provides access to historical data covering the period where ICE provided many more details on its detainer usage, including whether the individual was taken into custody and each subject's criminal history.