U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced today that it has created a hot line for detainees who "believe they may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime."
In its press release, ICE also announced that it was asking local law enforcement to fill out a new form when detaining someone on immigration charges. Authorities have to provide the detainee with a copy of the form, which lists the phone number — (855) 448-6903 — and advises that they can't be held for more than 48 hours on an immigration hold.
The new measures, says ICE, makes sure that people detained by local officials are "properly notified about their potential removal from the country and are made aware of their rights."
The announcement comes after a New York Times report found that more and more American citizens are being held "for investigation and possible deportation." It also comes after the federal government broke ties with the office of Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio, whom the Justice Department accused of violating civil rights and discriminating against Latinos.
The Arizona Sheriff was a participant the federal government's "Secure Communities" program, which allows local authorities to conduct immigration screenings.
As the AP writes, "the hot line is the latest move by the Obama administration to address concerns about suspected illegal immigrants held in local jails."
The San Antonio Express-News reports that some welcomed the changes:
"That's one of the things I find encouraging, that this seems to allow for those people to really make known that they are U.S. citizens," said San Antonio immigration attorney Nancy Shivers. "I think the hot line's a great idea if it works."
Shivers said she had some concerns about whether detainees will have access to phones to call the hot line.