ACLU Says Records Prove California Prisons Are Reporting U.S. Citizens to ICE

The American Civil Liberties Union [Northern California] obtained an email showing that a records department employee at the California Correctional Center emailed federal immigration authorities a list of people at their facility that they believed were subject to detention or deportation. However, several of the people on that list had been born in this country.

According to the ACLU NorCal, this is not an isolated incident. The advocacy group says it is routine practice for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to use discriminatory and racist practices by assuming people in their custody are deportable immigrants—even when their own records indicate they are U.S. citizens or immigrants who should not be deported—and then report those individuals to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while denying them rehabilitation opportunities.

The ACLU obtained the records in question after they sought emails between CDCR and ICE. According to the ACLU, an analysis of over 2000 records from August and September of 2022 showed that the agency transferred more than 200 individuals to immigration custody during that time period alone. The records also indicate that ICE has detained and even deported U.S. citizens.

The results from this analysis will be published this week.

“In their zeal to collude with ICE, CDCR is not only targeting people who have served their time and are set to return home for detention and deportation but is also sweeping up U.S. citizens and green card holders, relying on racist assumptions and ignoring their own records,” the report states.

According to the ACLU’s report:

  • If a CDCR official perceives a prisoner to be foreign born, that triggers a “potential” hold at intake — a formal internal CDCR designation. Once someone is identified with a potential hold, they are barred from lower security custody placements, certain jobs and reentry programming.
  • CDCR staff has referred individuals to ICE despite the state’s own records showing the person was a U.S. citizen.
  • CDCR staff regularly puts together “ICE packets” containing background information and criminal records of people they believe could be transferred to ICE custody or ICE detention centers; Some prisons have an “ICE Desk” with staff designated to facilitate referrals of incarcerated people to federal authorities.

CDCR spokesperson Terri Hardy acknowledges that CDCR inquires with ICE, but says it is solely in situations in which staff can’t determine an individual’s place of birth, or if information indicates that the person could be an immigrant. “We are working to ensure our staff is properly trained and informed when dealing with these types of cases,” Hardy said. She added that CDCR does not, and cannot by law, hold incarcerated people past their release dates.

The ACLU’s report follows a lawsuit that it and former prisoners filed that alleged similar issues to those described in the records. Examples given in the suit include U.S.-born individuals being reported to ICE because prison officials perceive them to be immigrants due to their names, skin color, or language proficiency, among other things. Most people on lists sent by CDCR to ICE whose birthplace is listed as the U.S. had non-Ango-Saxon names, according to the report. ICE regularly sent back forms indicating that the person CDCR had referred could not be deported.

The ACLU is still reviewing records, but chose to share the information in advance of the conclusion of its analysis.

In the meantime, immigration advocates are calling for California legislators to advance AB 1306, which would block transfers of certain incarcerated people to ICE detention. Lawmakers rejected a predecessor of that bill last year. Assemblymember Wendy Carillo (D-Los Angeles), who sponsored the bill, said the documents obtained by the ACLU NorCal show clear bias that requires the legislature to demand accountability. Her bill would address the blatant formalized discrimination happening in the state’s correctional facilities.

“In actively collaborating with ICE and with their own discriminatory language and actions, CDCR has betrayed the public’s trust and their own mission to facilitate the successful reentry of individuals in their care,” Carillo said.

Contact an Immigration Attorney Today

Reeves Immigration Law Group regularly represents individuals and their families throughout all parts of the immigration process from detention and deportation defense to visa applications. Our team of California immigration attorneys are well versed in immigration and nationality law, allowing us to provide successful outcomes reflective of an individual’s circumstances.

Contact us today to speak with our team of California immigration attorneys if you have an issue with ICE or any other aspect of the immigration process.


Los Angeles

(626) 795-6777

San Francisco

(415) 568-3777


(925) 310-5080


+011 (63) 917-622-2971


WeChat (微信) - yimin7788