ICE Sends Detainers to 3,671 Law Enforcement Agencies in FY 2019

A total of 3,671 law enforcement agencies (LEAs) were sent detainers by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials during fiscal year 2019. This figure is based on the latest detainer-by-detainer internal ICE records obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. ICE issues detainers asking local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to hold individuals up to 48 hours[1] in order to give ICE time to take them into custody and initiate deportation steps. ICE views detainers as a foundation of its Secure Communities program. According to its records, ICE sent detainers to LEAs in 2,158 counties in all 50 states.

Despite the large number of LEAs that received ICE detainer requests last year, the receipt of a request to turn someone the agency had taken into custody over to ICE was a relatively unusual event for most. A third (34%) of these law enforcement agencies received no more than three such requests during all of last year. About one in six (16%) received just a single detainer request. See Table 1.

A much smaller number of LEAs received high volumes of detainers. Only 15 percent of LEAs received an average of one or more detainers a week. These LEAs, however, received 80 percent of the detainers ICE prepared. Just 9 percent of LEAs received more than a hundred ICE detainers during FY 2019 or an average of two or more per week. And only eight (8) LEAs received an average of 5 or more per day.

Table 1. ICE Detainers Sent LEAs, FY 2019
Detainers Received Percent of:
LEAs Detainers
1 16% 0.4%
1 or 2 27% 0.8%
1 to 3 34% 1.4%
1 to 5 45% 2.4%
1 to 10 59% 4.8%
1 to 25 75% 10.9%
1 to 100 91% 28.8%
> 100 9% 71.2%

The ten LEAs receiving the most ICE detainers last year are shown in Figure 1. The Harris County jail in Texas topped the list with 5,072 ICE detainers. It is the most populous county in Texas, and is where Houston is located. In second place with 2,910 ICE detainers was the Maricopa County Jail in Arizona. Maricopa is the most populous county in Arizona with Phoenix as its center. The Hidalgo County Jail in Texas had the third highest number of ICE detainers (2,451) addressed to it. Its largest city is McAllen which is close to the Southwest border with Mexico.

California tied with Texas in having the most LEAs in the top ten with the Orange County Jail, Los Angeles County Jail, and the Taft Federal Correctional Institution making the rankings. New York had two LEAs in the top ten—Queens Central Booking and Brooklyn Central Booking—both in New York City. Georgia was the only other state with a LEA (Gwinnett County Jail) in the top ten.

Figure 1. Law Enforcement Agencies Sent the Most Detainers by ICE in FY 2019
(Click for larger image)

Changing Usage Practices

As TRAC previously reported, ICE detainer usage declined in FY 2019. Once President Trump assumed office, detainer usage had initially climbed. FY 2019 marks the first modest decline—down 6 percent—from the previous year. ICE's continued usage of detainers still remains slightly above the levels of five years ago, although well below levels from ten years ago. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. Use of ICE Detainers, FY 2003 - FY 2019
(Click for larger image)

Among these top ten, the LEAs that bucked the national trend and actually received more ICE detainers during FY 2019 than they had in FY 2018 included the two in New York. Queens Central Booking in New York City received fully 25 percent more detainers last year than it had the previous year. Brooklyn Central Booking in New York City received 12 percent more detainers. All the others in the top ten, except for the Harris County Jail in Texas, experienced a drop in ICE detainers in FY 2019 as compared with FY 2018.

Three other LEAs that received more than 1,000 ICE detainer requests during FY 2019 also experienced an increase over FY 2018 volumes. These three were: the Los Angeles Police Department, the San Francisco County Jail, and the Clark County Detention Center in Nevada.

Details on the 3,671 LEAs Receiving ICE Detainers

Accompanying this report is an online web tool which allows users to examine details on each of the 3,671 law enforcement agencies that according to ICE records were sent ICE detainers last year. The tool allows users to focus on FY 2019, or examine the entire period from FY 2003 through FY 2019.

A second web tool provides access to historical data covering the period where ICE provided many more details on its detainer usage, including whether the individual was taken into custody and each subject's criminal history. TRAC has an ongoing FOIA lawsuit seeking release of these additional details now being withheld by ICE[2].




[1] Actually it is not unusual for the duration of detainer holds to be significantly longer than 48 hours. This is because the statute only counts "business hours" so that detainers issued on four out of seven days of the week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) or encountering holidays last considerably longer. For example, if ICE issues a detainer at 3pm on Thursday, it doesn't expire on Saturday at 3pm. Instead it expires on Monday at 3pm. Similarly, one issued on Friday won't expire until the following Tuesday.

[2] Long and Burnham v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Case Number 5:2017cv00506 (USDC. NDNY).

TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact or call 315-443-3563.