U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Thursday that it launched a hotline for people jailed on immigration charges who believe they are victims of crime or may be U.S. citizens.
The toll free hot line — 855-448-6903 — will be staffed 24 hours a day and run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to answer questions from people held in local jails about whether they may face deportation proceedings.
The hot line is the latest move by the Obama administration to address concerns about suspected illegal immigrants held in local jails. Earlier this month, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ended agreements that had allowed deputies at an Arizona sheriff's office to check the immigration status of local jail inmates after a Justice Department report outlined allegations of racial profiling and discrimination against Latinos.
Homeland Security also announced the creation of a new “detainer” form that gives law enforcement the authority to hold a person in custody for a time.
“The notice informs these individuals that ICE has requested the [law enforcement agency] maintain custody beyond the time when they would have otherwise been released by the state or local law enforcement authorities based on their criminal charges or convictions,” an ICE press release stated. “The notice also includes Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Vietnamese translations.”
Immigration rights advocates have argued that there has been a need for more accountability and oversight in immigration detainers for a long time.
"The ACLU and other advocates identified four native-born U.S. citizens who were held unlawfully in custody through immigration detainers in Los Angeles County. One of these citizens was held for two days because of an immigration detainer despite repeatedly telling officers that he was a U.S. citizen," said Laura Vazquez, immigration legislative analyst for the National Council of La Raza, according to CNN.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.