Police in Georgetown, Ohio arrested three men for suspected trafficking of controlled substances, as reported by the Maysville Ledger Independent. All three men were charged with felony counts of drug trafficking and drug possession. Two of the men were released on bond. The third man, a 32-year-old gas station manager named Yogesh Patel, remains in custody. Police reportedly determined that he is an undocumented immigrant and placed a detainer on him. This means that he cannot be released from custody until his case is reviewed by federal immigration authorities. Once his criminal case is resolved, county authorities intend to turn him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may issue detainers to local law enforcement requesting them to hold an individual for a period of time so that they can review the person’s immigration status and, if necessary, take custody. This period of time does not begin to accrue until after local law enforcement no longer has need to hold the person. A person could therefore post a bond and still be subject to detention by ICE. Typically, ICE has 48 hours to take custody of a person once they have posted bond locally, or else the person must be released. If ICE takes custody of the person and decides to seek removal, they may not allow a bond. People may find themselves forced to post bonds to both local law enforcement and to immigration authorities.
Immigration detainers have begun to affect an increasing number of U.S. citizens, according to a recent report in The New York Times. DHS and ICE have expanded the Secure Communities program, which aims to integrate local law enforcement with federal databases of suspected immigration law violators nationwide by 2013. Local law enforcement officials participating in the program check fingerprints of everyone booked into jail against DHS databases. Flaws in these databases’ records have reportedly led to a number of false positives, causing local authorities to hold citizens wrongly identified as suspected undocumented immigrants, sometimes for long periods of time.
ICE officials assert that, as they lack the legal authority to detain U.S. citizens, they give “immediate and close attention” to anyone who claims they are a citizen. ICE has announced that it is revising its detainer forms to require local law enforcement to inform suspects of their immigration holds. The agency also says it plans to offer a hotline giving detainees direct telephone access to ICE.
The New York Times‘ article describes cases of people listed in the DHS database because of prior immigration issues that were not corrected, such as a U.S. citizen who had been mistakenly deported to Mexico in 1996. Another case involved a college student with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Spain, who ended up in a DHS database because she once entered the country using her Spanish passport. Local officials frequently lack the ability to access these records, leading to lengthy detentions requiring legal intervention to clear up misunderstandings. Hopefully further integration of DHS databases with local law enforcement will make such errors easier to catch, but this problem may persist for some time.
Ohio immigration visa lawyer Gus Shihab helps people understand and navigate the U.S. immigration system, which includes the constantly-changing politics of our immigration laws. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us through our website or at (800) 625-3404.More Blog Posts
Supreme Court Will Consider Controversial Immigration Law, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, December 15, 2011
Obama Administration’s New Policy on “Low Priority” Immigration Offenders Draws Criticism, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 17, 2011
Controversy Over State Immigration Laws Comes to Ohio, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, November 15, 2011