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How long can law enforcement hold an immigrant on detainer?

If you or a loved one has been detained by a local law enforcement agency or by officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, you probably have a lot of questions, including where a person can be taken during detention, whether they can receive any visitors and what rights a detainee has.

On top of these questions is perhaps the most important one of all: how long can law enforcement hold an immigrant on detainer? To answer this question, we will have to look at what a detainer is and why they are issued in the United States.

An immigration detainer is a notice issued by the Department of Homeland Security that gives local law enforcement the right to detain an immigrant until ICE can assume custody of the individual. ICE has the authority to issue detainers because of a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Immigration detainers can be issued for a number of reasons, meaning just about anything from a criminal conviction to questions about a person's immigration status could lead to detention.

So how long can law enforcement hold a person? According to the DHS's website, local law enforcement can't detain an immigrant for no more than 48 hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. If a detainee believes that they have been held for a period of time exceeding 48 hours, they have the right to contact the local law enforcement agency that is holding them and request a release.

Under federal law, local law enforcement agencies are required to release detained individuals if ICE does not assume custody of the individual within a 48-hour period.

Source: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, " ICE Detainers: Frequently Asked Questions," Dec. 28, 2011, Accessed Oct. 17, 2014

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