How to Find a Detained Loved One Online
Every year, ICE detains hundreds of thousands of people via a network of public and private facilities. Throughout the United States (U.S.), ICE operates hundreds of detention centers. As of fiscal year (FY) 2015, ICE operated 638 centers, allowing the mass detention of immigrants facing court proceedings. In fact, in 2017 the agency detained a stunning 38,000 people per day! This staggering sum represents a massive increase in daily detention numbers since FY 1994, when the U.S. government detained an average of 6,800 detainees per day. This increase highlights a spreading reliance on detention within the U.S. immigration system.
If a loved one is arrested and detained by ICE, it can feel like hope is lost. But it is not – though you must act fast to locate your loved one and deliver legal support. On ICE’s website, there is a way to locate adult detainees within the system. Locating your loved one is the first step, and we’re here to help. This article will review some basic information about ICE and its detainees, but more importantly will discuss the agency’s Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS) and how to utilize it.
When a friend or family member is detained, you need the help of an experienced immigration lawyer. Ideally, contact a lawyer immediately. That way, they can help with immediate location of your loved one. This is especially critical if you are searching for a detained child, as the ODLS does not track the location of anyone under 18. Davis & Associates provides expert legal representation to immigrants across Dallas & Fort Worth. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, operates under the control of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The agency was created in 2003 and its functional role is to “identify, arrest, and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety.” In addition to targeting those ICE deems dangerous, its agents also arrest and deport those who entered the country illegally.
Throughout the U.S., ICE operates via its 24 Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field offices. Within Texas, ICE maintains four ERO offices, the largest present in any state (California is a close second, with three ERO offices). In fact, Dallas is home to an ICE-ERO office; other Texan locations include Houston, El Paso, and San Antonio. You can view the location of all ICE-ERO offices on this map.
Who Does ICE Detain?
ICE targets, arrests, and detains two main groups of people. First are legal U.S. immigrants who have been accused and/or convicted of committing a crime. Second, ICE detains immigrants who live in the U.S. without any legal status. This group not only contains undocumented immigrants who crossed the border illegally, but also former visa holders who overstayed or violated the terms of their visa. When ICE arrests the above people, they are candidates for deportation according to American law. Legally, deportation is referred to as “removal.”
Despite the dire circumstances, if a person is arrested and detained by ICE, deportation is not a guarantee. This is especially true if the person has access to appropriate legal counsel. There are ways to seek relief from deportation, including adjustment of status and asylum. A skilled immigration lawyer will explore every option available during removal proceedings.
ICE’s Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS)
On its website, ICE maintains the Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS). You can use the ODLS to find a loved one who has been arrested and subsequently detained by ICE agents. The ODLS is a completely online database that tracks the whereabouts of adult detainees within custody. In order to use the ODLS, you’ll need access to a secure internet source and some personal information about your loved one.
For additional and specific information about the ODLS, you can visit the Frequently Asked Questions on ICE’s website. Below, we discuss the steps required to locate a friend or family member via the ODLS.
Finding Someone in the ODLS
In order to utilize the Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS), you’ll need to know some specific personal information about your friend or family member. There are two ways to locate detainees within the system. The first method is more accurate and simpler – you’ll just need your loved ones “A-Number” and their country of birth. Their A-Number is unique to them and no one else in the system will receive that number. You can locate a person’s A-Number on the top right corner of their Notice to Appear (NTA), the form they would have received to notify them of removal proceedings. The NTA is also known as Form I-862.
If you cannot find your loved one’s A-Number, don’t fret. You can still locate them, but the system may be less accurate, as it may be vulnerable to clerical errors like misspellings.
To locate someone via the second search method, you’ll need their:
- First and Last Name;
- Country of Birth; and
- Full Birthday (Including Month, Day, and Year).
ICE strongly suggests when possible to attempt to locate a detainee with their A-Number. This is because this method is more accurate, with a greater likelihood of returning updated information. Either way, you’ll need to know your loved one’s country of birth or the ODLS will not be accessible to you.
Finally, remember that you cannot utilize the ODLS to find a child in ICE’s detention. The agency does not track persons under 18 years of age within the ODLS. In order to receive aid with locating a child, we suggest working with an immigration attorney. Additionally, you can contact your local ICE ERO field office location.
Is the Locator Reliable?
According to ICE’s website, the ODLS updates completely at least every eight hours. Occasionally, information within the system can be as little as 20 minutes old. Because of this, you can assume that information that you find through the system is accurate, at least within the last few hours.
Unfortunately, clerical errors including misspelled names can make it challenging to locate a detainee. If you have trouble locating someone, or need additional information, contact an ICE-ERO location or an immigration attorney. If you are able to locate a person via the ODLS, you should be able to find their assigned ERO location within the system.
After Locating a Detainee
Once you have located your friend or family member, it’s time to act. If their current status states that they are “in custody,” you are able to visit them at their assigned location. Unfortunately, detainee transfers happen often and unpredictably, so make sure to call your loved one’s assigned detention center before arrival. You can also verify any required information or materials that you’ll need to bring in order to enter the center. This could include photo identification.
Contact an Expert Immigration Attorney
During detainment and removal proceedings, access to legal representation can mean the difference between success and defeat. Don’t leave your loved one’s fate to chance – work with an expert immigration attorney. Proper legal counsel not only ensures due process and fair consideration, but also increases the chances of both release from custody and relief from deportation. You can read more about the benefits of lawyers in immigration court here.
Davis & Associates serves the Dallas and Fort Worth community every day. We work tirelessly to defend immigrants and their families from detention and deportation. If ICE arrests your loved one – don’t delay. Contact us today and schedule a free initial consultation. One of our skilled and compassionate lawyers will discuss your case and work to help immediately.