Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

How To Find an Immigration Detainee

The stress and anxiety of looking for a family member detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can be overwhelming. To ease some of the burden and stress of looking for your loved ones, ICE provided an online detainee locator system. This system is a simplified process of finding your detained family member. It aims to provide ease and speed during these distressing times.

To use the immigration detainee locator, you must know specific facts about the detainee. Read on to learn more about the types of information you'll need to provide, the process involved in using the detainee locator, and more.

Currently in Custody or Recently Released

The immigration detainee locator provides only information on detainees in ICE custody or those released within the last 60 days. If a detainee doesn't fall within these parameters, the online detainee locator system won't contain the detainee's name and information.

Age of the Detainee

Knowing the age of the detainee that you want to locate can be very important. The online detainee locator won't allow you to find a detainee who is under the age of 18. If you are looking for a detained juvenile under 18, contact your local ICE field office for specific guidance and support.

Country of Birth

When using the immigration detainee locator, you must know the country of birth of the detainee you're looking for. The search engine will not allow you to run a search without this piece of information. The country of birth allows the online detainee locator to narrow the search to provide the most accurate information possible.

Alien Registration Number

One way to find a detainee through the immigration detainee locator is by the foreign nationals' Alien Registration Number (A-number). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assigns the alien registration number, or A-number. Generally, it is an "A" followed by eight numbers. However, recently issued A-numbers consist of an "A" followed by nine digits. You must enter leading zeros using the online detainee locator system if an A-number is fewer than nine digits.

Biographical Information

If you do not have a detainee's A-number, finding a detainee with their first and last name is possible. Since some first and last names may be very common, entering the detainee's date of birth can also help narrow your search. It is crucial to spell the detainee's name correctly for a successful search.

Why Did Ice Detain My Family Member?

ICE could detain them for several reasons. Most of the reasons cited are due to their immigration status and activities conducted in the United States. For instance, they can be detained if their family members enter the U.S. illegally without proper authorization, documentation, or inspection. This includes illegally crossing the borders or avoiding immigration checkpoints.

If the person's application for asylum was denied and they failed to leave the country voluntarily, ICE could likewise detain them while awaiting deportation or removal proceedings.

Persons involved in criminal activities could also face immigration detention. In some cases, a foreign national gets suspected of a national security threat or concern, which may lead to detention and further investigation by ICE. Overstaying your U.S. visa without proper extension or adjustment of status is another cause of ICE detention.

It is important to remember that each immigration case is unique. ICE determines the circumstances on a case-by-case basis. In any event, it is important to understand your family member's legal rights. This is where contacting an immigration law attorney becomes helpful.

What Happens When ICE Detains Someone?

ICE often follows a series of steps and procedures when detaining someone. The process usually begins with the local law enforcement agencies or ICE officials arresting the person. This can occur at border crossings or during immigration raids. After arrest, the person is then taken to a detention facility. At the ICE detention facility, the person goes through processing.

Then, law enforcement officials take the person's fingerprint, photographs, and biographical information. ICE may also conduct background checks to assess if the person detained has any pending criminal convictions or has committed immigration violations.

Once in custody, the person may also have a right to be represented by an attorney. However, unlike in criminal cases, the U.S. government does not provide free legal representation to the detainees. The detainee should either seek assistance from a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to immigrants or hire a private attorney.

ICE detainees also go through immigration court hearings. During this time, the detainee will appear before an immigration judge. The immigration judge will inform the detainees of their rights and explain the reason for their detention. In some cases, a foreign national may go through expedited removal proceedings. With expedited removal, the noncitizen may be deported or removed from the U.S. without attending a hearing in immigration court.

The immigration court may also hold a bond hearing if the detainee is eligible. The bond allows the detainee's release from custody, pending their immigration case. There are various factors that the immigration judge looks into when granting bonds. These factors may include:

  • The immigration judge may determine whether the detainee has criminal convictions.
  • The immigration court may examine the person's immigration status and family ties in the United States.

After the immigration case continues in court, the judge determines the outcome of the case, which could be:

If the immigration court orders deportation, ICE officials will arrange the return of the foreign nationals to their home country.

For more detailed information about what occurs after ICE detains a person, it is best to consult an immigration attorney near you.

What Is the 48-Hour Rule for Immigration Detainees?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues a notice once a person is detained or taken into custody (Form I-247). The DHS issues this notice to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies (LEA). It contains information stating ICE intends to take custody of a person held by the LEA. It also advises the person detained that ICE intends to assume their custody.

If ICE does not take custody of the detainee after 48 hours, LEA should release the individual. The LEA should not hold the person in custody for more than 48 hours. The Notice to the detainee also contains information about this rule. It states that if ICE fails to take custody within 48 hours, they should contact the LEA or the government holding them and ask about their release.

Seek Legal Advice From an Immigration Lawyer

Understanding the rules of immigration law and the ICE detention process can be overwhelming. If you or your family members are detained, it is important to understand your legal avenues and rights.

In this case, it is recommended that you consult an immigration law attorney near you. They can help you look for detention centers where your loved ones can be. They can provide immigration services and help you understand the rights and protections that your family members have while in immigration detention. Contact an immigration attorney for detailed legal advice about how to find a detainee and other immigration services.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you get the best results possible.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select
Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options