SU study reveals problems with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detentions

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, information about immigrants creating problems for the government was misattributed to a source who had not been interviewed for the story. The source has since been removed from the article. The Daily Orange regrets this error.


A report released on Feb. 20, led by Syracuse University associate professor Susan Long, found that a significant number of people incarcerated between 2008-2012 through Immigration and Customs Enforcement were not criminals.

In fact, some were even citizens.

The analysis was published by SU’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Long, a managerial statistics professor, is the director of the TRAC Research Centre.

An immigration detainer, often called an immigration hold, is a notice issued by U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents to local federal law enforcement agencies. It is the primary tool Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to apprehend suspected non-citizens being held by these authorities, Long explained.

“TRAC analyzed the detention holds from 2008 through 2012,” Long said. “Even though it is illegal for agents to detain U.S. citizens, that happened in more than 800 cases.”

The analysis of five years worth of detention data shows only 20 percent of the one million immigration hold orders issued by federal agents were for people with criminal convictions, she explained.

In Syracuse, ICE agents held 65 people in the Onondaga County Jail between 2008-2012, according to TRAC data. Of those, 60 had no criminal records. Additionally, eight people were held in the Wayne County Sheriff jail in Syracuse. Of those, five had no criminal record, according to TRAC data.

This means that of the 77.4 percent of the detainers issued by ICE, the record shows that the individual who had been identified had no criminal record — neither at the time the detainer was issued nor subsequently, according to TRAC data.

For the remaining 22.6 percent that had a criminal record, only 8.6 percent of the charges were classified as a level 1 offense, which includes crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, robbery and major drug offenses, according to the TRAC website.

During the period between 2008-2012, ICE agents issued nearly one million detainers across the country, according to case-by-case records obtained by TRAC through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The TRAC website also reports public transparency is a useful tool that could assist in ensuring these announced priorities are faithfully carried out.

In response to these findings, a newly issued version of the immigration detainer form includes a series of checkboxes to mark the reasons the detainer was issued, according to TRAC data.

In its analysis, TRAC further recommended that ICE Director John Morton publish monthly statistics tracking the number of detainers issued under this new version of the form, the location of the detainees, the numbers corresponding to the checked boxes on the new form and the ultimate outcome, including removals of immigrants that occurred after filing the form, according to TRAC’s website.


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