A “detainer request” is a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asking local authorities to hold an arrestee for up to 48 hours so that ICE can determine the arrestee’s immigration status. In Miami-Dade and many other counties, the procedure has been to blindly comply with any such request. When local authorities arrest an undocumented immigrant, even for very minor violations, the end result is often deportation. At the very least, detainer requests often result in foreign nationals being held unnecessarily, sometimes longer than 48 hours, despite having posted bond.

Miami-Dade County Attorney Robert A. Cuevas, Jr. recently concluded in a July 15, 2013 memo to Mayor Carlos Gimenez that ICE detainer requests are not mandatory. He found that they are, in fact, requests, and local officials are not obligated to continue to hold a foreign national who is the subject of such a request. The finding comes as part of Mayor Gimenez’s effort to look into funding and other issues involving the detainer requests.

It is not unlikely that many counties throughout Florida and the United States, like Miami-Dade, are complying with ICE detainer requests without further thought. Attorney Cuevas, Jr.’s ruling now affords local officials with some precedent to release foreign nationals who should not be held.