How To Find A Detained Family Member

How to Find a Detained Family Member

Detainment separates families and can devastate lives. In 2017, the federal government detained around 38,000 people each day. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known more often as ICE, provides a way to locate detainees within its custody via its Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS). Unfortunately, this process is not perfect and provides no way to search for records of children. Any person under the age of 18 cannot be located by ICE’s online system.

When a family member or other loved one has been apprehended and detained by ICE, contact a deportation defense lawyer immediately. Remember, avoid scams by only working with lawyers certified by your state’s bar association. An expert immigration attorney will be an essential ally, both in your fight to free your loved one and stop the deportation. They can protect the rights of you and your family, ensure a fair judicial process, and explore every option available.

Within this article, we review the online method to locate a person in ICE custody. Additionally, we include what personal information you’ll need to conduct a search and how to locate a person’s specific facility.

ICE Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS)

The first step to locating a loved one is visiting ICE’s Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS). Below we detail how to find a loved one detained by ICE. You will need some personal information, which is required and essential to complete the search.

ICE also includes Frequently Asked Questions about the ODLS on its website.

Required Information

ICE’s online locator provides two ways to search for detainees. Firstly, any adult immigrant in ICE detention can be found via their A-Number and country of birth. The “A-Number” is a person’s “Alien Registration Number.” Their A-Number will be unique to them. You can find their A-Number on the top right corner of their Notice to Appear (NTA), also known as Form I-862. If you do not have this information, you can still find someone in detention, though the information may be less reliable.

For the second location method, you’ll need to enter:

  • First Name & Last Name
  • Country of Birth
  • Birthday, including Month, Day, and Year

ICE suggests, when possible, to search by a person’s assigned A-number. This will provide a better chance of finding the updated and correct information. Please note that a person’s “country of birth” is required via either search method.

Remember, the online locator cannot be used to identify and find juveniles or children within ICE’s custody. If you are attempting to locate a child, contact an immigration attorney or the local ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

How Reliable Is The Locator?

According to ICE, the detainee location system updates at least every eight hours. Sometimes, information may be as little as 20 minutes old. Thus, you can consider ICE’s systems to possess fairly updated information. Unfortunately, clerical errors and name misspellings may make it difficult to locate someone without their A-Number.

For more information about your loved one’s case, contact their assigned Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).


Additionally, ICE states that the locator does not note if a detainee is currently being transferred to another facility. This can happen without warning, and in fact, often does. The locator suggests that family members or legal counsel call the detention facility to confirm a person’s presence before arrival.

Can You Visit A Detainee?

Yes. If the detainee has been located with the online system and their record states they are “in custody,” you can visit them at their facility. On their individual detainee record, select the link that says “Current Detention Facility.” This will provide you with updated information about your loved one’s current location. Again, because transfers happen often and without warning, call the detention location prior to arrival. Additionally, the facility can let you know any documents or other information you need to bring with you, like photo identification.

Get Help From An Expert Immigration Lawyer

Apprehension by ICE can have profound impacts on a person’s life, family, and livelihood. The first step to providing aid to a loved one in custody is to locate their detention facility. An experienced and compassionate immigration lawyer will provide appropriate legal counsel while supporting your family throughout court proceedings. Don’t delay – deportation proceedings can move swiftly, especially for those in detainment.

Davis & Associates provides top-tier legal representation to immigrants and their families. We serve the Houston area, as well as clients in Dallas/Fort Worth. If you or a loved one face removal proceedings, contact us today. You’ll talk to one of our skilled attorneys during your free initial consultation and leave with a path forward.