Immigration Law – Office of Detention and Removal - dhw
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Immigration Law - Office of Detention and Removal

Office of Detention and Removal

Within the federal government, the Office of Detention and Removal (DRO) is responsible for carrying out the removal of an alien. DRO is a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). DRO is the agency charged with removing unauthorized aliens and detaining them pending removal.


The DRO performs a broad spectrum of services relating to the removal of illegal aliens. The DRO’s role in the removal process kicks in once a final removal order is entered. This includes ensuring that all aliens identified as removable are removed in a timely manner. To carry out this responsibility, the DRO facilitates removal arrangements with the foreign country to which the alien is being removed, coordinates travel arrangements and other details related to necessary travel documents and paperwork, and occasionally escorts the alien to the foreign country that is their final destination.

Within the category of aliens set for removal, aliens who failed to comply with a removal order are dealt with by the DRO’s National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP). NFOP focuses exclusively on aliens who did not comply with a removal order and who are, therefore, fugitives from the law. NFOP’s priority is to focus on fugitive aliens who are criminals. There is a “most wanted” list of fugitive criminal aliens.


DRO also handles the detention of aliens who are in government custody pending removal. Aliens are detained in several detention facilities throughout the United States. These facilities are called “Service Processing Centers” (SPCs). In addition to the SPCs, DRO contracts with non-immigration detention facilities, including federal, state, and local prisons. Any non-SPC detention facility must meet DRO’s detention standards, which set forth minimum standards of living conditions for detained aliens.

The detention of unaccompanied alien juveniles is a special issue. DRO does not handle juvenile detentions; rather, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Division of Unaccompanied Children Services (divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services) have responsibility for the care and detention of alien juveniles.