The American Bar Association Commission on Immigration’s Navigating Immigration Detention: A Guide for Family and Friends of Individuals in Detention is a resource for those who have a friend or family member in immigration detention. This guide provides information about ICE detention and immigration proceedings, the rights of individuals in ICE custody, and available resources.
Please note that the information presented is a general educational resource and should not be understood as legal advice.
ICE Detention Standards and Handbooks
Upon admission to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility, your friend or family member should receive copies of two handbooks, the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations National Detainee Handbook and the facility’s handbook supplement. When combined, these two handbooks should inform each detained person of their rights and the facility’s responsibilities.
ICE Detention Standards are the rules by which detention facilities agree to operate, and they form the basis for these handbooks. Currently, ICE has five versions of detention standards that may apply to adults in custody. Standards may vary depending on the type of facility and whether the facility serves as a correctional facility as well as an immigration detention center.
Most people detained in ICE custody are assigned to facilities that use the 2016 revision of ICE’s 2011 Performance-Based National Detainee Standards, or PBNDS 2011 (rev. 2016). Therefore, this guide is based primarily on this version of the standards.
Sections in This Guide
- What is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and what is their role in detention?
- The Rights of Individuals in Immigration Detention
- Legal Resources
What is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and what is their role in detention?
ICE is an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that, among other responsibilities, manages the detention of individuals accused of violating immigration laws. For more information, see page 3.
The Right to an Attorney
While every person in immigration detention has the right to an attorney, it is up to them to hire or find an attorney or accredited representative. Individuals who cannot afford or find an attorney or accredited representative have the right to represent themselves. See page 4.
Everyone in detention has the right to conduct legal research, get necessary forms to advance their case, and make copies of legal material. Detention facilities have law libraries that should be made available for at least one hour for five days or more each week. Additionally, some facilities are visited by legal services organizations that may provide “Know Your Rights” presentations and other forms of pro se and pro bono assistance to individuals in detention. See pages 4 to 5.
Every individual in ICE detention has the right to maintain communication through telephone calls, letters, and visitors. See pages 5 to 6.
Rights to a Safe Environment
All individuals in ICE detention have the right to maintain their personal hygiene and must be given toiletries, hygiene products, and services such as haircuts. Additionally, detained individuals have the right to clean bedding and towels, several uniforms, underwear, socks, and footwear. ICE must ensure adequate living conditions and serve three meals daily. Other rights include personal space, recreation, and healthcare services. See pages 6 to 10.
Right to Practice Religious Faith
Every detained person has the right to practice their religious faith and must be given reasonable access to religious services and support. See page 10.
Accessing Personal Funds while Detained
Detained individuals have access to a commissary account and are given the option to participate in a voluntary work program. See pages 10 to 12.
How does ICE decide how to house detained people, and what are its procedures for discipline and security measures?
ICE classifies detained people by making a determination about the degree of risk they pose to others. The classification affects how they are grouped into housing units. See pages 12 to 14.
ICE expects facilities to attempt to informally resolve “minor incidents.” For more serious infractions, an incident report initiates an investigation and determination of disciplinary measures.
People in detention are expected to comply with ICE rules related to prohibited items, regular counts by facility personnel, and procedures for searches.
See pages 14 to 16.
Rights Violation Resources
ICE has a formal grievance system where informal, formal, and emergency complaints can be shared. Both individuals in detention and their loved ones can file a complaint through ICE.
Facility Grievance Officers: Detained people may file formal or informal complaints through a completed ICE grievance form or by written statement.
ICE Detention Reporting and Information Line (DRIL): This line can be used to obtain case information, report incidents, etc. The DRIL is toll-free and available at 888-351-4024 or via the pro bono network on a facility phone at 9116#.
DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG): Detained individuals, family members, or friends can contact this line to report mistreatment, abuse, fraud, etc., at 800-323-8603. See pages 17 to 20.
People in ICE detention should receive a copy of both ICE’s national and facility’s handbook in a language they understand. Online links to resources may be found on pages 20 to 22.
If you or your loved one has questions about immigration proceedings or any of ICE’s detention standards in effect in a facility, you can contact the ABA Commission on Immigration‘s Detention Hotline by phone for free at 202-442-3363 or 2150# for those in detention. This information line operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.