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Are Immigration Detainer Practices Rational?

Contact: Selena Teji, Communications (415) 621-5661 x. 123

study casts doubt on efficacy of immigration and public safety intersection

San Francisco, CA: CJCJ released a new report today titled “Are Immigration Detainer Practices Rational?” which examines a sample of suspected undocumented immigrants who are detained in California’s local jails on non-mandatory holds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) purposes.

The report finds of the 77,923 ICE hold requests studied:

  • Suspected undocumented foreign nationals who commit traffic offenses are more likely to be booked into ICE detention (75.8 percent) than those who commit violent offenses (67.5 percent).
  • Similarly, a suspected undocumented immigrant with a prior or contemporaneous conviction for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana—which is no longer even a crime in California—is more likely to face ICE detention (73.1 percent) than one with a rape conviction (69.7 percent).
  • 16.4 percent of the sample studied were for individuals with a DUI documented as their most serious criminal charge. Holding these individuals in local correctional facilities for non-criminal reasons is an inefficient use of limited public safety resources.
  • Based on available data, American immigration enforcement policy is irrationally applied in that it targets, holds, detains, and deports undocumented immigrants without regard for their dangerousness. 

The individuals studied represent only a small fraction of the estimated 2.8 million undocumented immigrants in California. The records of prior offending of those apprehended by law enforcement do not reflect that of the much larger undocumented population, any more than the criminal records of the arrested population of United States citizens would reflect all citizens.

Law enforcement should target the smaller, dangerous, and largely transient criminal element while deprioritizing enforcement, detention, and deportation efforts directed at the larger, employment-seeking immigrant population.

Read the full report >>

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For more information about this topic or to schedule an interview with a CJCJ representative, please contact CJCJ Communications at 415-621-5661 x 123 or

Download the press release >>

Keywords: immigration, jails, Mike Males, press release, research brief, Selena Teji

Posted in Publications, Social Justice

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