Questions and answers about ICE detainers or holds, how these impact someone in a jail or prison, and what you can do.

Check the Detainer Laws in Your Area!

Local law enforcement agencies have different policies about whether they will work with ICE. 

Contact a local immigrant rights organization to learn more about local laws and policies related to ICE detainers. These organizations can help you find an immigration attorney, give you advice about your immigration situation, or help advocate with ICE.

A detainer is a form from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that asks law enforcement to hold you in criminal custody, even if you should be released. It also asks law enforcement to notify ICE before you are released from criminal custody. 

ICE might send a detainer to offices such as the sheriff, the police, a jail, or a prison.

Detainers are also called “ICE holds” or “immigration holds.”

How an ICE Detainer Works
ICE Fills Out a DetainerICE Fills Out a Detainer
ICE Detainer Graphic Part 2Steps 2 to 4 describing how ICE uses detainers.

ICE issues a detainer form when ICE believes you are not a U.S. citizen and could be deported from the U.S. You could be deported if you are undocumented, have lawful status and certain convictions, have violated the terms of your immigration status, or for reasons related to “national security.”

Who is removable – graphicGraphic describes who is removable and is at risk of deportation. 1: Undocumented people. 2: People who have violated the terms of immigration status. 3: People of lawful status with certain convictions. 4: Reasons related to “national security”.

If ICE believes that you may be deported from the U.S., ICE issues a detainer form to the local jail, prison, or police. When a jail or prison decides to follow the requests in the detainer form, they might transfer you directly to ICE custody, or hold you at the jail or prison until ICE can come to arrest you.

ICE can learn about you when you are fingerprinted during an arrest by local police. The police or sheriff share fingerprint data and other arrest information with ICE. Police may also call ICE directly if they suspect you are not a U.S. citizen.

A fingerprint with an arrow going through it illustrating the process of how ICE learns about you.

The ICE detainer form asks the jail to hold you for up to 48 hours after you are finished with your criminal custody.  In the past, weekends and holidays were not included in the 48 hours, but now they are included in the 48 hours. 

The ICE detainer form says that you must be released after 48 hours if ICE does not pick you up. The jail might mistakenly insist that they have to hold you for more time until ICE comes to arrest you.

When law enforcement offices cooperate with ICE detainers, they make it easier for ICE to arrest people. Following an ICE detainer request is voluntary and local law enforcement can decide whether or not to comply. This means the federal government cannot force the police, jail, or prison to hold you for ICE because of an ICE detainer.  If a city or state has a policy that they will not follow detainer requests, the local jail might not transfer or hold you for ICE.

How Long Can I Be Held in Criminal Custody on a DetainerA clock showing 48 hours including weekends and holidays, the length of time ICE can ask jail to hold you on a detainer.

What Can I Do About an ICE Detainer?

1. You or your loved one can contact the local public defender office, your criminal defense attorney, or a local immigrant rights organization:

  • Before asking for bail
  • Before paying bail
  • For help asking to be released from jail, especially if you paid bail, your case was dismissed, or you have finished your sentence

2. If you feel comfortable, you or someone else can ask the jail to release you.

3. Speak with a local public defender or immigrant rights organization about filing a motion in court for your release from jail.

4. Talk to an immigration attorney to get advice about your immigration situation and options. You or your loved ones can look for a trusted immigration attorney or representative on the Immigration Advocates Network legal directory.

What Can I Do About an ICE Detainer – GraphicFour steps showing what you can do if you have an ICE detainer. 1: Contact public defenders office. 2: Ask the jail to release you. 3: File motion in court for your immediate release from jail. 4: Talk to an immigration attorney.

How Can an ICE Detainer Affect Me?

There are many factors that affect your eligibility for bail. A criminal defense attorney can give you more advice about your situation, including whether a detainer will affect your release from criminal custody.

Applying for Bail – GraphicSpeech bubbles instructing someone who wants to apply for bail to contact a criminal defense attorney.