ICE Is Releasing Some Aliens Handed Over by Law Enforcement in Ala., Says Rep. Gutierrez

By Edwin Mora | November 17, 2011 | 5:31pm EST

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is a leading congressional voice opposing Alabama’s new law. (Photo: Gutierrez Web site)

( – The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is releasing some aliens after they have been turned over by local law enforcement officials in Alabama, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Thursday.

Gutierrez said he does not know to what extent ICE is releasing aliens arrested in Alabama, but wants to ensure that the policy is applied more broadly.

“We do know that there have been detainers issued, that is immigrants that have been brought to ICE, and that they’ve been released, subsequently released [by ICE],” he told in the Capitol hallways.

“We know that that’s happening in Alabama, but we don’t know to what extent it’s happening and we want to make sure it is a broadly applicable policy that we can bring forward.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, a “detainer” is a document issued by ICE to a local prison or correctional facility when the agency is seeking custody of an arrested individual in order to begin removal proceedings.

“A detainer is a request from ICE to the law enforcement agency to notify ICE before it releases an individual so that ICE has the opportunity to transfer the individual to federal custody,” DHS explains.

“Federal law provides that an individual cannot be held on a detainer for longer than 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays,” adds the department. “At the end of the 48 hour period, the detainer expires.”

The Obama administration is opposed to Alabama’s new anti-illegal immigration law, arguing that it is “highly likely to expose persons lawfully in the United States, including school children, to new difficulties in routine dealings.”

Signed by Republican Gov. Robert Bentley in June, the new law allows state law enforcement agencies to apprehend anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, once the person is detained for any other reason.


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Under the law, public schools are mandated to check the immigration status of students and job providers are required to verify the immigration status of new employees. The law also makes it illegal to knowingly give a ride to an unauthorized alien.

The Obama administration sued Alabama over the new law and in October a federal appeals court temporarily halted some of its provisions, including checking for students’ immigration status. Other provisions stand, including one requiring police officers to check for immigration status during stops.

Gutierrez held a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday announcing that he and nine Democrat colleagues would travel to Alabama on Nov. 21 to protest what he called its “abusive anti-immigrant law.”

Gutierrez has long been a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and is a leading congressional voice opposing Alabama’s new law.  The Illinois congressman said the visiting lawmakers would use campaign funds and own money to subsidize their trip to Alabama.

The nine lawmakers accompanying him are Reps. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Joe Baca (Calif.), Silvestre Reyes (Texas), Grace Napolitano (Calif.), Charlie Gonzalez (Texas), Terri Sewell (Ala.) Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Al Green (Texas) and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.).

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