Escalating Jailhouse Immigration Enforcement: A Report on Detainers Issued by ICE Against Persons held by Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina from 2016-2018

52 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2021

See all articles by Priya Sreenivasan

Priya Sreenivasan

Project South

Jason A. Cade

University of Georgia School of Law

Azadeh Shahshahani

Project South

Date Written: December 7, 2021


In January 2017, former President Trump announced Executive Order 13768, in which he pledged to expand 287(g) agreements across the country, a program that deputizes state and local authorities to perform functions of immigration enforcement, and required the Department of Homeland Security to publish a list of counties that refused to honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers (also referred to as “ICE holds”). Through the increased use of 287(g) contracts and other forms of jailhouse immigration screening arrangements, local law enforcement agencies became increasingly involved with federal immigration enforcement during the Trump administration. Although numerous federal courts have ruled that detaining noncitizens solely pursuant to ICE holds violates the Fourth Amendment, ICE continues to use jailhouse screening and detainer requests to facilitate the apprehension, detention, and removal of immigrants across the country.

This report analyzes the 35,916 ICE detainers that were issued between fiscal years 2016 and 2018 in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, as well as the state bills and local policies that foster cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement in these states. Between FY 2016 and FY 2018, the number of detainers issued by ICE doubled in North Carolina, nearly tripled in South Carolina, and nearly quadrupled in Georgia. At least half of these detainers (18,099) resulted in people being jailed in immigration detention facilities and the majority of detainers were issued to persons originating from Latin American countries. Almost 93% of ICE detainers were issued to local law enforcement agencies such as county jails, detention centers, or sheri’s departments, at a total cost of millions of dollars per year.

Local law enforcement agencies routinely jailed immigrants on behalf of ICE even in the absence of
formal agreements to collaborate in place. Only three of the top ten local law enforcement agencies
with the highest rates of detainer requests across the three states had active 287(g) agreements during the time period of the report. On average, individuals with detainers were held in local jails for a significant period of time, ranging from two weeks to one month. Individuals who were eventually transferred to ICE detention centers were held in jail for longer periods of time, ranging from an average of 19 days to 43 days. e impact of these ICE detainers on local communities was severe. Thousands of immigrants were detained as a direct result of these collaborations. According to the government’s own data, at least 189 of those for whom ICE issued detainers turned out to be not legally subject to removal proceedings, due to U.S. citizenship or other lawful immigration status. Further, the data also show that at least three individuals died while incarcerated subject to a detainer during the time period of this study.

Human rights abuses in ICE detention centers are well documented, and investigative reports have
increasingly revealed poor health conditions, abuse, and other problems within local jails. As the data in this report demonstrate, ICE’s collaboration with local law enforcement has also had a costly and detrimental impact on communities in these states. For these reasons, this report closes with specific recommendations, including calls to end local law enforcement agencies’ involvement in federal immigration enforcement and to eliminate immigrant detention.

Suggested Citation

Sreenivasan, Priya and Cade, Jason A. and Shahshahani, Azadeh, Escalating Jailhouse Immigration Enforcement: A Report on Detainers Issued by ICE Against Persons held by Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina from 2016-2018 (December 7, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Priya Sreenivasan

Project South ( email )

Jason A. Cade (Contact Author)

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States
(706) 542-5209 (Phone)


Azadeh Shahshahani

Project South ( email )

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