Know Your Rights: Why Am I Being Detained?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has the authority to detain certain individuals who are immigrants. If you or your loved one fear ICE detention, it is important that you know your rights as a detainee. In this blog, we cover reasons ICE may have for detaining immigrants and an individual’s rights in detention.

Reasons for Being Detained by ICE

There are a variety of reasons that an immigrant can be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Some of the common reasons for detaining an immigrant include:

  • they are accused of a crime;
  • they failed to appear at past immigration hearings;
  • they have a pending or late removal order;
  • they seek refugee status or asylum at the border without a visa.

That being said, ICE can deport individuals who:

  • enter the country without documentation;
  • enter the country with legal documentation that has now expired (i.e. overstayed their visa);
  • are legal permanent residents (LPR) or green card holders and have committed certain crimes;

If a person is arrested by ICE, they could expect the following process:

  1. They will be taken to jail or an office;
  2. They will be interviewed about their immigration status;
  3. They will be moved to a detention center;
  4. They will have an immigration court hearing.

If arrested by the police, an individual could go through the following steps:

  1. They will be booked into jail and interviewed about their immigration status;
  2. ICE detainer (“hold”);
  3. The person will serve sentence;
  4. ICE will pick up the individual from jail/prison and/or the person will stay in the same jail, which acts like a detention center;
  5. ICE may move them to a detention center;
  6. They will then have an immigration court hearing.

Note that an immigration “hold” or detainer is a request that ICE puts in to the local law enforcement agency that has an undocumented person and who they want to detain. A hold allows local law enforcement to hold you up to 48 hours until ICE picks you up, after which you will likely be moved to a detention center.

Your Rights as a Detainee

ICE detention facilities should be run similarly to correctional facilities, though that is not often the case. Each person in detention does have rights they can assert, though, such as medical attention, ability to communicate via telephone, and free legal counsel.

If you or a loved one has been detained by ICE, know that a detainee has the following rights:

  • effective opportunity to be heard promptly by a judicial or other authority to defend themselves or to be assisted by counsel;
  • information on and an explanation of their rights from the authority responsible for their arrest, detention, or imprisonment with information on and an explanation of their rights;
  • translation of all their rights and detainment information in a language they understand if they do not adequately understand or speak the language used by the authorities responsible for their arrest, detention, or imprisonment;
  • if the person is a foreigner, communication by appropriate means with a consular post or the diplomatic mission of the State of which the detainee is a national or such communication in accordance with international law or with the representative of the competent international organization, if they are a refugee or otherwise under the protection of an intergovernmental organization;
  • special notification to parents/guardians if they are a juvenile;
  • the assistance of a legal counsel;
  • visits from members of their family and adequate opportunity to communicate with the outside world;
  • proper medical care and treatment whenever necessary, free of charge;
  • opportunity to request or complain regarding their treatment, particularly in case of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;
  • presumption of innocence for an alleged criminal charge and treatment as such until proven guilty in a public trial at which they have had all the guarantees necessary for their defense.

If you find out that someone who you know has been placed in ICE detention, you may be able to find their whereabouts on the ICE detainee locator site. Note that you will need specific information to identify them, such as their birthdate, home country, full name, etc. For the most accurate search, you will need the person’s A (Alien) Number. Unfortunately, not everyone is immediately taken to one of the federal facilities and may be held in local jails, so they may not yet be detectable on the detainee locator site. It also may take ICE a couple of days from the time an individual is moved from jail to the detention center to process them into the system. There’s also the possibility that you don’t have the person’s name as it appears to ICE, as the police could make mistakes while inputting a person’s name.

If you wish to find or see a loved one detained in an ICE facility, you will need to contact their deportation officer to learn about how to call and/or visit them. Be aware that it is critical you do not reveal any additional information to the deportation officer when speaking to them, as this could incriminate you or the person you wish to see further. An experienced immigration attorney can guide you through this process before they are deported or moved out of state.

Let Hubbs Law, P.A. Help

ICE currently has more than 50,000 people in detention. If you are at risk of being detained or know someone who is, contact an experienced immigration attorney immediately. At Hubbs Law, P.A., we have handled many immigration detention cases before and can provide you the legal support you need in this difficult and uncertain time.

Let us help you. Contact us at Hubbs Law, P.A. to discuss your case and determine your next legal steps.


Please note that by reading this blog you are not entering into an attorney-client relationship with Hubbs Law, P.A. This blog only provides general legal information. Every case is unique and you should request a consultation to ensure that you are getting the correct legal advice for your specific case.

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