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ICE Ability to Unlawfully Detain Immigrants Limited

February 22, 2022
Aaron Lawee

On February 8, 2022, a federal judge in Chicago approved a settlement to limit ICE’s practice of unlawfully detaining individuals. The case is called “Castanon Nava et al v. Department of Homeland Security et al.” The lawsuit was filed by a group of plaintiffs who had been illegally detained by the Chicago ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) office. As a result of the settlement, ICE must make the following important changes to their practices, which will hopefully prevent or limit unlawful arrests and racial profiling:

  1. ICE Must Issue a Nationwide Policy Regarding Warrantless Arrests and Vehicle Stops. ICE must clarify the standards officers must use to make warrantless arrests and certain vehicle stops. If an officer wishes to make an arrest without a warrant, they must first determine that there is probable cause that the person is a) present in the United States in violation of any immigration law and b) is likely to escape before the officer can obtain a warrant. The officer must consider factors such as the individual’s history of previous escapes, attempted flight, as well as ties to the community. Regarding vehicle stops, an ICE officer may only make a stop if they have reason to believe that a person inside the vehicle does not have legal status. Furthermore, ICE does not have the authority to enforce traffic laws, and an ICE officer cannot claim that a vehicle stop is due to a traffic violation.
  2. ICE Must Document the Bases for Warrantless Arrests and Vehicle Stops. ICE officers nationwide must document the facts and circumstances surrounding warrantless arrests and vehicle stops in a detainee’s immigration file (form I-213). This must include the fact that the person was arrested without a warrant, the location of the arrest, the person’s ties to the community or lack thereof, and other facts justifying the warrantless arrest.
  3. ICE Must Undergo Training Nationwide to ensure compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement. ICE will train its officers within the ICE Chicago Field Office within 45 days of the broadcast of the statement of policy, and all officers nationwide within 180 days.
  4. ICE Must Provide Documentation to Confirm Compliance with the Settlement. On a monthly basis while the agreement is in effect, ICE will provide documents related to warrantless arrests and vehicle stops conducted in the Northern District of Illinois to ensure compliance with the policy and settlement agreement.

What if you have been arrested illegally? 

This lawsuit was specifically brough against the Chicago ICE Field Office, which covers all of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, and Kansas. If someone is arrested by ICE in one of those states in violation of this agreement, then the person must be released from custody as soon as practicable, without paying a fine or be otherwise being subject to conditions of release. The only exceptions are people with a criminal detainer, people who have committed crimes that make them subject to mandatory detention, or certain people who are deemed to pose a danger to the community. If ICE continues to violate the terms of this settlement, then it may be enforced through the Court.

We hope this settlement agreement greatly reduces the number of illegal arrests conducted by ICE. If you believe someone was unlawfully arrested by ICE, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 427-6163. You may also contact the National Immigrant Justice Center, which was involved in litigating this issue in federal court.

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