ICE Changes Guidelines for Detaining Undocumented Immigrants

New detainment forms no longer guide police officers to hold only those charged with misdemeanors.
By Morgan Baskin ,

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (left) and Border Patrol agents detain a man at the Mexico border on June 16th, 2006.

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Friday it will change its “detainer policy,” to go into effect April 2nd. The agency’s new detainment form removes all suggested guidelines of how best to identify undocumented immigrants and prioritize their detention.

The policy announcement, made through a change to the agency’s website, will presumably empower police officers and local law enforcement agents to more easily prosecute people they have “probable cause” to believe “is a removable alien.”

While the old detainment form implicitly required law enforcement to detain immigrants only who had “a prior felony conviction,” “three or more prior misdemeanor convictions,” “been convicted of illegal entry” or other misdemeanors that include violent sex crimes, the new form eliminates those guidelines for detention.

The American Civil Liberties Union notes that detainment forms are “one of the key tools [ICE] uses to apprehend individuals who come in contact with local and state law enforcement agencies and put them into the federal deportation system,” adding that they have historically been used to detain immigrants without due process.

The change is consistent with other actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security in recent weeks.

In February, DHS quietly rescinded most of its documents — including the landmark 2014 Johnson Priorities Memo — that provided lawmakers with a best practices framework for prosecutorial discretion, a principle that allows law enforcement officers to decide what charges (if any) to file against a detainee. Prosecutorial discretion helped ensure that immigrants who once committed non-violent or low-level crimes weren’t prioritized for deportation.

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