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Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed July 2022

Immigration has the ability to detain people when they are in the process of removing (deporting) them from the United States. Immigration detention is different than criminal detention, even though an immigrant may be detained at the same facility.

Frequent Ways Individuals are Detained by Immigration

Legally Re-entering the United States

Upon reentry to the United States, all individuals are subject to immigration inspection. Individuals can be stopped by immigration and detained if they have criminal convictions or other admissibility issues. Immigration has access to your criminal records, and you should consult with an immigration lawyer if you have any criminal convictions and plan to travel.

Interactions with the criminal justice system

When an individual is arrested or charged with a crime, their fingerprints will be sent to various databases, which include immigration databases. Persons who are in criminal custody or who have criminal convictions or charges can come to the attention of immigration and be placed in immigration detention.

 Encountering ICE upon unlawful entry 

Individuals who enter the country unlawfully, may be detained by immigration at or near the border (within 100 miles) and placed in immigration detention.

Prior removal orders (orders of deportation)

Individuals who have prior removal orders or orders of deportation may be arrested by immigration based on their prior orders. This can happen anywhere and does not need to be at the border.

Applications to Immigration 

When an individual applies for an immigration benefit or status, they will be fingerprinted as part of the process. Immigration can discover criminal convictions that would make you deportable and subject to removal proceedings (deportation proceedings) and possibly detention.

I was arrested by Immigration. What are my rights?

You have a right NOT to sign any statements or documents. You have the right to talk to a lawyer first, but the government will not give you a lawyer. You do not have to give information about your immigration status. Anything you say will be used against you later on. You have the right to contact your consulate.

The list of consulates and their phone numbers should be posted in the jail. If not, get the number from your deportation officer. Contact your consulate immediately. If you leave a message, give them your name, A number, where you were arrested, and the name of your deportation officer. The consul may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or provide other services.

How does my family find out where I was detained?

If your family does not know where you are detained, they should contact the local office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Detention and Removal Branch in the area. They should have your full name and “A number” ready, which is an 8- or 9-digit number on your immigration paperwork. The local office for all of New England is in Massachusetts:

Boston Field Office
1000 District Avenue
Burlington, MA, 01803
Phone: (781) 359-7500
Area of Responsibility: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Email: [email protected]

For offices in other parts of the country see Immigration and Customs Enforcement Enforcement and Removal Operations Field Offices online

You can also look for your family member online with the ICE detainee locator.

Can I be released from immigration detention? 

Possibly. Some, but not all immigrants are eligible for bond if they are detained by immigration.

What is bond?

A bond is an amount of money paid to the government in order to show that you will attend your court hearings. Immigration or an immigration judge will decide the amount if you are eligible for bond. The person paying the bond must have some kind of immigration status and identification. If you are granted bond, they can pay the bond at any ICE office.

Do I get a bond hearing?

You should always ask for a bond hearing, but you may not be eligible for bond if you: (1) have a previous deportation order, (2) have certain criminal convictions, (3) were arrested at the border/airport or (4) the government suspects you have terrorist ties.

What should I bring to the bond hearing?

You should submit any documents that show you have a permanent address, stable employment, relatives with legal status in the United States, and any evidence of strong ties to the community, such as letters from employers, relatives, or pastors. 

How do I know when I have a hearing?

You can call the Immigration Court (EOIR) hotline. The number is 1-800-898-7180.

  • When you call, the automatic hotline will ask you for your Alien Registration Number, or “A number.” This is a 9-digit number that should be on any documents you have from the government related to your immigration. An example is A 123 456 789.
  • After you enter your A number, you can find out when your next court date is scheduled.
  • You can also check the online case system on the EOIR website.

What will happen in Immigration Court?

See Removal (Deportation) Proceedings.

Resources on Detention

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Before you talk to USCIS always speak with an Immigration Specialist.

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