What Happens After Someone Has Been Arrested by ICE?

If you read the news on any given day, you’re likely to read about different arrests made by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

And if you look at this data from ICE, you’ll see that there’s a huge increase in arrests during the fiscal year of 2017. A total of 143,470 arrests were made, making it the biggest number of arrests for the past three fiscal years.

You might be wondering what happens to those people who’re arrested by ICE due to civil immigration violations. Where are they taken? How long can they stay in the U.S.? Are they immediately deported? Do they have rights?

ICE Arrest to Appeal

Contrary to popular belief, illegal aliens are not the only persons that ICE can legally arrest. 

Even legal aliens who are non-citizens can be arrested and deported as long as there’s a strong proof that they’ve committed a crime or have violated an immigration law.

  1. Arrest

It’s not always a tip from a neighbor or co-worker that leads to an ICE arrest. Most often than not, the person is arrested for something else, and that arrest triggers ICE’s radar when the person’s identity is checked in the database.

The person could’ve committed a misdemeanor or was arrested by Border Patrol agents at border areas and other ports of entry. 

By the way, those who have been arrested within 100 miles of U.S. borders or have been staying in the U.S. for 2 weeks or less can be deported through expedited removal.  

  1. Detainer or Immigration Hold

The arrestee will eventually be turned over to ICE if there’s sufficient evidence of an immigration law violation. 

ICE will first file for a detainer or immigration hold so that the arrestee can be held in jail for an additional period of 48 hours without a warrant. 

An arrestee should be released from custody if he or she’s not taken by ICE within that period. 

But “in the event of an emergency or other extraordinary circumstance”, that period can be stretched to a “reasonable period of time” according to the Department of Justice.

  1. ICE Detention Facilities

Once the arrestee has been taken by ICE, the said arrestee will be transferred to one of the following ICE facilities:

  • Service Processing Center (SPC) – facility owned by the DHS
  • Contract Detention Facility (CDF) – private facilities that are contracted by ICE
  • Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) – jails that are contracted by ICE
  • Dedicated Intergovernmental Service Agreement (DIGSA) – facilities that are exclusive to ICE detainees
  • U.S. Marshals Service Intergovernmental Agreement (USMS IGA) – facilities that are contracted by U.S. Marshals Service and ICE
  1. Bond

Some ICE arrestees are eligible to post a bond. The following are some of the reasons the judge considers when allowing the arrestee to be bonded:

  • The arrestee is not a flight risk
  • The arrestee is not a threat to the community

The minimum bond amount is $1,500. Depending on the situation, the arrestee can request that the bond amount is reduced.

  1. Removal Proceedings

The options that befall an arrestee would either be an order of removal or a discretionary grant of voluntary departure.

An arrestee can request for the latter during the start of the removal proceedings. 

There are certain conditions that must be met before the request is granted by the immigration judge. Some of these are the following:

  • The arrestee has a valid travel document
  • The arrestee has a good moral character for at least 5 years prior to the arrest
  • The arrestee has the means to pay for his or her transportation

Every ICE arrestee will be given the Notice to Appear (NTA). Aside from the arrestee’s personal information, the reason why the arrestee should leave the U.S. will be also be included in the NTA.

A careful review of the charges listed on the NTA is a must before the master calendar hearing.

During the master calendar hearing, the defendant can deny or confirm the charges made against him or her. 

The next step in the legal process is the Merits Hearing. The arguments as to why the arrestee should stay in the country will be presented. If there’s a valid defense (known as relief) against the charges, the judge may permit the defendant to stay in the country.

If the judge believes that there’s not enough reason for the defendant to stay, he or she will be given an order of removal. The person has to leave the country within 90 days from the time the written notice is received.


The defendant can have the decision appealed to the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals.

But keep in mind that it will take months for the decision come out. And all throughout that time, the defendant will be detained.