Now that U.S. election is over; many undocumented immigrants are in fear that the new administration under Donald Trump is going to live up to its word and move to start the deportations of millions of people. People caught and held by immigration authorities (most likely, the agency called Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE) may be placed into detention.
If you, a family member, or friend are undocumented, the most important thing you can do right now to protect your rights is to be prepared for how to respond if you are detained. This will help to ensure that your rights are protected and that you can fight your removal before an Immigration Judge.
Why You Might Be Detained
Not all undocumented immigrants are detained once they are caught by ICE. In fact, you are more likely to be released if you have family in the U.S., have no criminal history, and appear to have a case for relief from deportation.
You are more likely to be detained if you have a criminal history or a prior negative immigration history, like a deportation. If you have a criminal history, you may still be eligible for bond, but if you have a prior deportation order, ICE can use that order to immediately remove you from the U.S. without getting a chance to fight in immigration court.
If ICE doesn’t release you, or if you are unable to pay bond before being transferred to an immigration detention center, you should be prepared for what to expect once you are detained.
Bond and Bond Redetermination
The first thing you can do when you are detained is ask for a bond. The bond is money that you’ll have to pay to be released from detention. The person posting the bond for you must be someone in lawful status, like a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen.
The issuance of a bond is largely based on whether the court thinks you are a danger to the community and the risk that you will not appear for scheduled court hearings. You should tell the deportation officer assigned to your case about situation, like having a spouse or children who depend on you, your employment history, ties to your community, and lack of a criminal record – if you have never been arrested or charged before. This information can help the officer determine whether to grant you a bond.
Once the officer decides whether to grant you bond, they must present you with a form called “Notice of Custody Determination” which will contain all information related to your bond.
If the officer refuses to grant you bond, you have the right to ask an Immigration Judge for a bond redetermination. This means that an Immigration Judge will make the decision whether to grant you a bond. If the officer grants you a bond that is too high, you can ask an Immigration Judge to lower the bond. When asking the Judge to redetermine your bond, you will need to emphasize all the positive factors about your life previously mentioned above.
If you are denied bond or cannot post bond, you will remain detained throughout the entire removal proceeding process. The same applies if you are found to be subject to mandatory detention.
Contacting Family and Friends
If you are detained, you can, and should, contact your family or friends as soon as possible. You have the right to make one free, local call. You are responsible for the cost of all other calls, either by establishing an inmate account or by making collect calls.
Let whoever you contact know where you are detained, your alien registration number (“A number”), and any bond information. Your A number is listed on any paperwork you are given, including the document called the “Notice to Appear” – the document that tells you what you are charged with and ordering you to appear for Immigration Court – given to you by ICE.
Your “A number” is extremely important for your family to know, since it will help them to communicate with immigration officials about your case. You should also give them any bond information, such as whether a bond was granted and the amount.
If you have an immigration lawyer, ask your family to contact them immediately. You also have the right to speak to your home country’s consulate. If you want to speak to your consulate, ICE should give you the contact information or help you contact them. The consulate may be able to help you contact your family or help you find a lawyer.
You have a right to documents you understand
You should not sign any document that you do not understand or disagree with. You could be signing away important rights, such as the right to fight your case in Immigration Court.
ICE should provide you with documents in a language you understand or with an interpreter to review the forms with you before you sign anything. If this does not happen, you should contact an immigration lawyer or your country’s consulate before you sign any document that you do not understand. If you have an immigration lawyer, you should not sign any paperwork until you speak with them.
Be Careful What You Say
It is very important that you are honest with the officers that you speak with during this process. If you give false information, such as a fake name or date of birth, this can hurt your case and make it more difficult for your family and friends to locate you.
If you are unsure about what you should or should not say, especially if you have a criminal record or complicated immigration history, it is best to speak with an immigration lawyer before you say anything.
FIND OUT WHERE YOU STAND! You may already qualify for a benefit that you are not aware of yet. If you have never talked to an immigration attorney about your situation before, now is the best time to do so – before the new administration starts making changes that may affect you and your family. Contact an experienced, licensed attorney to find out what YOU can do to help your situation.
If you would like our assistance, contact our office today at 210-932-3600 to set up a consultation.