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Officers for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encounter millions of immigrants each year. Certain migrants stopped at the border are transferred to detention centers operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at which point they may lose contact with their friends and family. Here are some steps on how to locate them.
Documented has received multiple messages through our WhatsApp channel of families requesting help locating their family members who had been sent to detention centers. Here is everything you need to know about how to find a family member detained by immigration authorities at the border.
What is ICE’s Online Detainee Locator System?
Immigrants, who submit themselves to immigration authorities or are detained while entering the border, are sent to detention centers located in towns near the part of the border in which contact with immigration authorities occurred. The detention centers are operated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and there are numerous detention centers around the United States and Mexican border, and also around other states around the country.
To help locate a detainee, ICE implemented an Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS) which can return the detention facility and if the detainee is in custody. ODLS will not return the information of all the people detained as there are exceptions. The information of people under the age of 18 will not appear in the system, for example.
There are two ways to use the detainee locator system:
- Entering someone’s Nationality and Alien Registration Number (A-Number), which is a 9 digit number assigned by USCIS to nonimmigrant individuals in the United States.
- Or entering a person’s Name, Last Name, Date of Birth, and Country of Origin.
** It is important to ensure the spelling is correct when entering the information.
Tips from our WhatsApp members who had to locate their family members:
- If no information is returned for individuals who have two last names, add a hyphen between the last names. For example DOE SMITH should be entered as DOE-SMITH
- The embassy of your country in the United States can also help locate detainees whose information does not appear through the ODLS
Individuals can also contact one of ICE’s Field Offices around the country if they know the field office where the family member has been arrested.
For assistance locating minors, family members can contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center at 1-800-203-7001. The center is open 24/7.
After the location of the family member/friend is found, they can contact the facility to inquire about visitation restrictions.
Note that federal detention centers conduct background and immigration status checks on all visitors. Undocumented immigrants who visit a detention center may be detained and/or subject to removal.