Legal Columns


[Entry without Inspection] What to Do If Your Family Member or Friend Is Arrested or Detained by Immigration? 11/07/2017

Sofía was 19, when she fled her country, El Salvador, after receiving threats from a drug cartel. In late 2014, she was caught near San Diego, CA, by the U.S. Border Patrol and was sent to an immigration detention center in Eloy, AZ. Following eight months in detention, she was desperate to reunite with her mother, who lives in Northern California. Like many detainees, Sofía was eligible for release on bond while awaiting her immigration court hearings. But her bond, set at $15,000, was far more than she could afford.

The U.S. government is using detention with increasing frequency as a means of dealing with undocumented or otherwise removable permanent residents after their arrest. When a friend or loved one has been placed in detention, it can be very difficult to try to discover information on the person’s whereabouts. In this clip, I will discuss the detention process and how to contact and help a family member or friend who has been arrested by the immigration.

First, once you are arrested by the immigration, the deportation officer assigned to your case must decide within 48 hours whether to keep you in custody or to release you on some conditions like bond for future removal proceedings in front of the immigration judge. Please do not expect immigration officers to explain all your options, or to give you the right information. Ask them first to speak to a lawyer, and do not sign anything, such as “voluntary departure” or “stipulated order of removal,” without first talking to your lawyer. If the immigration decides you are removable, then the officer will give you a Notice to Appear (“NTA”), a paper providing you with information about your removability charges and the future hearing date and place before the judge.

In case you are detained without a bond or with a bond with too high amount, you may ask the immigration judge to give you a bond hearing and consider your release on posting a bond or reduce the amount. Once the judge schedules the bond hearing, usually a few days to a few weeks away, you can present evidence why you are eligible for release on bond. Please remember that you will likely have only one opportunity for a bond hearing, so it’s always best to make sure that you have all your evidence ready before you ask for the bond hearing.

The judge considers two factors when deciding your release and what bond amount to give you. The first is whether you are a “flight risk.” The judge will consider whether you have lots of ties to the community that give you a reason to attend all your future court hearings. These include whether you have family and children with legal status, whether you have a stable job, and whether you have some financial equities like a house, car, and savings. The second factor is whether you are a “danger to the community.” The judge will look at all your past arrests and convictions, including DUIs, to see whether it is likely that you will commit another similar crime if you are released.

When you first find out that your family member or friend is in detention, it would be difficult for you to get information. Furthermore, you will need to act quickly, especially if the detainee has previously been deported from the U.S. or has an outstanding removal order. Such detainees can be removed within a few days, or even hours, of the initial detention.

That is why it is very important that you hire an experienced immigration attorney to assist you in locating your detained family or friend, tracking down the deportation officer and maintaining lines of communication. Your attorney can visit the jail on your behalf and may ask for a bond hearing as long as the detainee is eligible for. Also, if the detainee requires a certain medical care, an attorney can ensure he or she receives that care in the detention facility.

The U.S. immigration law and system is incredibly complex and difficult to navigate alone. It is only with experienced and competent legal representation that will ensure eligible individuals to have the opportunity to get released from detention and remain lawfully in the United States with their loving family and friends. Song Law Firm’s immigration team composed of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys and bi-lingual staff is dedicated to protecting your legal rights. If you have any further questions regarding the detention and deportation defense, please contact our immigration team.