U.S. Immigration And Customs Enforcement Launches Hotline For Detained Undocumented Immigrants

At a time when states such as Alabama and Arizona push for tougher immigration laws, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has launched a hotline for detainees who "may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime."

ICE wants to "ensure that individuals being held by state or local law enforcement on immigration detainers are properly notified about their potential removal from the country and are made aware of their rights," according to a press release.

The 24-hour, 7-day toll-free hotline -- (855) 448-6903-- in English and Spanish, will be staffed by ICE personnel. Translation services will be available in several languages from 7 a.m. until midnight (Eastern) seven days a week. The initiative also includes a new detainer form meant to ensure that detainees are not held for longer than 48 hours as they wait to hear about their deportation status.

The initiative comes after a number of U.S. citizens were detained in immigration detention centers under the Secure Communities program, which is intended to detect undocumented immigrants who are arrested by local police, reported The New York Times.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently stripped the man who calls himself "America's Toughest Sheriff," Joe Arpaio, and his 100 deputies in Arizona of their federal powers to verify the immigration status of jailed inmates amid accusations of racial profiling and abuse of power since at least December 2009.

Last September, a similar hotline called the Deportation Family Support Hotline, was launched in Chicago, created by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and run by volunteers. According to ICIRR, during its trial period, the hotline also proved helpful in exposing scams directed at immigrants with deportation cases currently under review, answering questions about promises of reprieves from attorneys and notary publics that preyed on immigrants' unfamiliar with the law.

The Obama administration has said it seeks to improve the "immigration enforcement process and prioritize resources to focus on threats to public safety, repeat immigration law violators, recent border entrants, and immigration fugitives."