Immigrants in Custody Who Claim to Be U.S. Citizens Can Call a Special Hotline
Federal officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) recently announced the creation of a telephone hotline as part of a “broader effort to improve our immigration enforcement process and prioritize resources to focus on threats to public safety, repeat immigration law violators, recent border entrants, and immigration fugitives while continuing to strengthen oversight of the nation’s immigration detention system and facilitate legal immigration,” an ICE press release stated.
The toll-free number, (855) 448-6903, is available for detainees held by local law enforcement officials if the detainees believe they may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime. When an individual that has been detained by local police is suspected of being in the country illegally, the local department is supposed to turn over suspects or criminals to ICE within 48 hours for possible deportation. However, many local law enforcement agencies do not follow the federal law, and the institution of the hotlines comes amid controversy regarding local law enforcement agencies’ constitutional ability to detain individuals they believe to be in the country illegally.
The hotline will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will be staffed by ICE personnel. ICE will have interpreters available in several languages, although they have not made public the specific languages available as of yet. “ICE personnel will collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations field office for immediate action,” the statement said.
Additionally, ICE officials are preparing to issue a form to all detainees, which will inform them that ICE will assume their custody within 48 hours. The form will be available in English as well as Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Vietnamese.
The form “advises individuals that if ICE does not take them into custody within the 48 hours, they should contact the [law enforcement agency] or entity that is holding them to inquire about their release from state or local custody.”
While I believe this is a positive move for ICE, I would caution anyone who is unsure of his or her immigration status to call the hotline.