Federal immigration authorities are issuing significantly fewer requests for jails to hold inmates beyond their scheduled release dates so they can take custody of them and attempt to deport them, a new report shows.
Based on data obtained from the government, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse report shows a 39 percent decrease in these requests — called detainers — between fiscal year 2012 and March of this year. That translates to about 9,000 fewer detainers issued per month, or more than 100,000 fewer each year. In Georgia, there was a 58 percent drop in detainers during this time frame.
Two years ago, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a policy memo tightening the focus of its detainers. Among other things, the memo says convictions “for minor traffic misdemeanors or other relatively minor misdemeanors alone should not trigger a detainer unless the convictions reflect a clear and continuing danger to others or disregard for the law.”
“Since 2011,” the agency said in a prepared statement Friday, “ICE has implemented a number of policy reforms to expand the use of prosecutorial discretion, including limiting the use of detainers to individuals who meet the agency’s enforcement priorities and restricting the use of detainers lodged against individuals arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses, such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes.”
“Finally,” ICE continued, “during the late spring and summer of 2014, the agency also reallocated significant amounts of resources from interior offices to the southwest border to assist with the surge of unaccompanied children and family units.”
TRAC — a research organization based at Syracuse University — said ICE could also be reacting to criticism of its enforcement tactics. In September, the Fulton County Commission passed a resolution urging Sheriff Ted Jackson to not comply with the detainers. Quoting the American Civil Liberties Union, the county’s resolution says such detainers could “undermine the trust between local law enforcement and the immigrant community.”
ICE confirmed it is “no longer issuing as many detainers in jurisdictions which have chosen to no longer honor the agency’s requests or allow agency access to correctional facilities.”