Most ICE holds lack criminal records
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
2/26/13 at 7:33 AM
Read the full report.
More than two out of three people detained by the federal immigration service during a five-year period were not convicted of a crime, according to a nonprofit group's analysis of information obtained through open records requests.
In the Tulsa Jail, about 70 percent of those detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not have criminal convictions at the time or after the detainer was issued.
About 74 percent of those held in the Oklahoma County Jail also had no convictions, according to the report.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, based at the University of Syracuse in New York, used the federal Freedom of Information Act to find the number of "holds" issued by the immigration service and whether the detainees were criminals.
An immigration hold, also called a detainer, is a tool used by ICE to ask agencies to continue holding a person until it can retain custody for possible deportation.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, did not provide 69 items of information about each detainer specified in the request made in December 2011.
Not included is the outcome of the detainer or deportation and the date the hold was issued.
But the data show that nearly 1 million detainers were issued between 2008 and 2012.
Of those, about 77 percent had no criminal record before or after being detained, the report states.
For the remainder, about 9 percent had a conviction for the most serious Level 1 offenses, which include national security violations, homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, sex offenses, weapons violations, domestic violence, extortion and drug offenses.
The other 14 percent are lesser convictions such as municipal warrants for traffic offenses or lesser misdemeanors.
The organization also found that U.S. citizens and legal immigrants were subject to detainers.
It found that 834 citizens and 28,489 legal permanent residents, called green-card holders, were issued detainers.
Of the legal immigrants on holds, 20,281 had no record of any criminal conviction.
"It is illegal for (Homeland Security) to detain U.S. citizens, and to do so is a significant violation of their constitutional rights," the report alleges.
"Having a detainer placed on you, however, even if ICE has mistakenly done so, can have very significant ramifications. Inadequate safeguards exist to prevent such mistakes from happening or to rectify them after they have happened.
"ICE has wide administrative powers to detain individuals it suspects may be present in this country illegally. Because these are considered 'civil' and not 'criminal' detentions, the protections afforded someone who is a criminal defendant or arrested by local, state or federal criminal law enforcement authorities do not come into play."
More than 3,500 local, state and federal agencies received an ICE detainer.
About 95 percent of immigration holds were for men.
While the median age of detainees was 30, about 5,895 were younger than 18 and about 28,500 were older than 65.
The majority - 73 percent - were Mexican citizens, followed by citizens of Guatemala (5 percent), Honduras (5 percent), El Salvador (4 percent) and Cuba (1 percent).
ICE issued a revised detainer form in December.
A memorandum from ICE Director John Morton said the changes were to "ensure that ICE's finite enforcement resources are dedicated, to the greatest extent possible, to individuals whose removal promotes public safety, national security, border security, and the integrity of the immigration system."
The new form includes a series of boxes to show the reason for the detainer as it fits within the agency's priorities.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse recommends publishing monthly statistics tracking how many detainers are issued, where they are issued and the ultimate outcome.
This model is used by ICE in its assessment of the Secure Community Program, which grants enforcement power to local and state agencies.
"Public transparency is a useful tool that could assist in seeing that these announced priorities are faithfully carried out," the report states.
Detainers issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to federal, state and local agencies between 2008 and 2012 to continue holding a person until ICE can retain custody for a deportation hearing:
Convicted of a crime*
|Facility or agency||Total||No||Yes|
|Oklahoma County Jail||3,086||2,270||816|
|Oklahoma City federal transfer center||120||115||5|
|Oklahoma City Jail||12||4||8|
|Oklahoma City Community Corrections Center||2||2||0|
|U.S. Marshal Service Oklahoma Western District||23||13||10|
*Crimes include all violations, ranging from felony convictions to municipal traffic violations, either at the time or after the detainer was issued.
Source: Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376