An immigration detainer is a tool used by ICE and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to identify potentially deportable individuals who are housed in jails or prisons nationwide. An immigration detainer is an official request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to another law enforcement agency (LEA)—such as a state or local jail —that the LEA notify ICE prior to releasing an individual from local custody so that ICE can arrange to take over custody.
Detainers are requests, not commands. They are not arrest warrants and do not provide probable cause for arrest. The presence of a detainer is not indicative of an individuals’ immigration status. Detainers do not begin deportation proceedings and do not signify whether a person will or will not be deported. Thus, detainers are different than a Notice to Appear (NTA), which is an official civil/immigration filing that commences a removal proceeding against an individual. The immigration detainer document merely states that an “investigation has been initiated to determine whether this person is subject to removal from the United States.” Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 287.7(a), any authorized immigration official (or local police officer designated to act as an immigration official through the 287(g) program) can issue a detainer to any other federal, state or local law enforcement agency.