Hudson County, NJ- Enforcing the U.S. immigration laws can be a mammoth task, so Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) relies on help from local law enforcement agencies for help. In 2009, the Hudson County Department of Corrections entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with ICE to honor immigration detainers and identify non-citizens who are subject to removal from the United States. I believe it is important to explain what this partnership entails and how it could impact New Jersey’s and Hudson County’s large immigrant community.
When a local law enforcement agency partners with ICE, some officers receive limited immigration enforcement training and their primary duty is to detain an immigrant until ICE can decide if that immigrant is deportable. After an officer arrests an individual, his or her personal information and fingerprints are sent for an FBI criminal background check. The same information is sent to ICE to determine if an immigrant is a priority for deportation and should be detained until ICE agents can pick up that person and transfer him or her to a federal detention center. Or, they can decide that an immigrant is not a priority for deportation and they can be released.
If ICE issues an immigration detainer, which they can do based on probable cause, the Hudson County of Department of Corrections, as part of their agreement with ICE, is required to hold an immigrant for 48 hours regardless of whether they can post bail or are otherwise required to remain in jail. That 48 hours does not include weekends and federal holidays, so an immigrant’s actual detention time could be far longer if he or she has the misfortune of being taken into custody on a Friday or before a major holiday when federal offices will be closed.
ICE uses that 48-hour detention period to decide if an immigrant meets their criteria for deportation as outlined by the Priority Enforcement Program. (PEP is an immigration policy directive that replaces Secure Communities an directs who should be removed and detained by immigration authorities.) According to the Department of Homeland Security, the agency responsible for setting deportation priorities, an immigrant is a priority for deportation if he or she has been “convicted of significant criminal offenses or who otherwise pose a threat to public safety.” A significant criminal offense generally refers to a felony conviction but can also apply to immigrants with three or more misdemeanor convictions or even other one-time minor offenses.
Under PEP, ICE will no longer focus their deportations efforts on individuals accused of civil immigration violations. Nor will ICE focus their deportation efforts on immigrants who have been charged with criminal offenses but have not been convicted.
Instead of issuing detainers for all immigrants that meet ICE’s deportation priorities, the agency will ask Hudson County Corrections to inform them when a detainee is going be released at least 48 hours before their release. This request instructs local law enforcement to refrain from holding an individual beyond their initial release date. ICE will use this time to determine whether there is probable cause to conclude the individual is removable and the deportation process will initiated.
An immigration detainer is a simple request that law enforcement hold an individual, it doesn’t mean that deportation is imminent. There are a number of ways an immigrant can avoid deportation but they must pursue the right course of action. I strive to find that best course of action and give you a greater chance of avoiding deportation or getting the right visa. If you live in Newark, Hudson County or anywhere in New Jersey are facing deportation, contact my office to set up a consultation. You can count on me to work hard on your behalf and do what I can to provide you with a successful case.