By Mitchell J. Cohen, Esquire
When someone is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) it is often a challenge to find out where immigration has locked them up. ICE has a page called the “Online Detainee Locator System,” which may be helpful in locating someone in immigration custody. The page states that the locator system can be used to locate current ICE detainees as well as individuals released from immigration custody within 60 days. The system cannot search for persons under the age of 18. The ICE online detainee locator system allows the user to conduct a search using the detainee’s “A-Number” (also known as an “Alien Number” and his/her date of birth, or if the A-Number is unknown, a search may be conducted by entering the detainee’s biographical information A individual may be assigned an alien number under a variety of circumstances. It may have been assigned in connection with a person’s application for an immigration benefit. An individual’s alien number might be found on a USCIS receipt notice (Form I-797). It can be found on a person’s USCIS employment authorization document (also known as a “work permit), or his or her permanent resident card (a/k/a “green card”). An individual may also be assigned an alien number as a result of being placed in immigration court removal proceedings. If a person has not been assigned an alien number previously, ICE will assign a new one upon taking that person into immigration custody. Sometimes an individual will have one, two or even more alien numbers that have been assigned to him over the years. That is why it may be useful to gather together as many of the detainee’s immigration documents, to ascertain all alien numbers assigned to him/her.
Searching to ICE detainee locator system by biographic information is more of a challenge, because the system does not employ “fuzzy logic.” Rather, the detainee’s first and last names must be entered exactly as they are listed in ICE’s system. It may be necessary to experiment searching with variations of a person’s name, including or excluding hyphens, or adding or subtracting the mother’s surname, or even entering known aliases. If you receive a phone call from someone in immigration custody ASK WHERE HE OR SHE IS (the name of the facility, and address). ASK WHAT ALIEN NUMBER AND/OR JAIL NUMBER HAS BEEN ASSIGNED TO HIM OR HER. Oftentimes the alien number and jail number will be on a wrist-band. Unfortunately, the reality for many is that it can take hours or even days to locate a person who has been arrested by immigration. The arrested individual may be taken to one ICE facility to be “processed” but then moved to another to be incarcerated. Even when someone is actually located within a facility, it may several hours or even overnight for that person to be entered into the facility’s computer system. Again, if calling a immigration detention center, it is helpful to have the A number handy.
ICE detention centers and contract facilities in Florida
Phone: (850) 942-8301
Attorney Mitchell J. Cohen is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and represents individuals at Krome, BTC, the Glades Detention Center, and throughout Florida. Law Offices in Hallandale Beach (954 457-1941) and Fort Myers, Florida (239 931-6558). Would You Like to Know More?