What To Do If A Loved One Gets Detained
There are several options for people who get detained when they are undocumented. Here we will focus on what happens when a undocumented people have minor police interactions.
If an undocumented or documented person commits a crime, that person becomes subject to deportation. For example, if a person has a green card and they commit aggravated assault, they can still get an ICE hold.
Whenever you leave your house, it is your obligation to be able to prove your identity. If you drive within Austin’s city limits without a license, and you get pulled over for speeding, the police will also ticket you for driving without a license. It’s important to carry an identity document if you're going to be driving, even if you don't have a license. A matricula consular or a passport from your country will work. You must have something to prove to the police officer who you are so they can make sure that you don't have a warrant out for your arrest.
If it's a Class C misdemeanor, like a traffic infraction, you shouldn't be arrested within the city limits. It’s really easy to get outside the city limits where you are protected. You never know when you might encounter a racist cop who wants to arrest anyone that’s driving without a license.
Driving is really risky and although you're not supposed to drive without a license, we understand the realities of living in Central Texas and we can’t tell you not to do it. If you get pulled over and you are driving without a license outside the city limits, it’s very possible that someone could get arrested and detained. The risks are real.
What if an undocumented person gets arrested and enters criminal custody?
When an undocumented person gets taken into custody, there are two processes that are bifurcated. There's the criminal case and the immigration case, and typically they're not done at the same time. It's rare to see someone who is in a detention center have both their criminal case and their immigration case heard in the same place.
After the detainee has been released from criminal detention, ICE has 48 hours to transfer them into custody. Since the previous administration, anybody who is undocumented and gets transferred into ICE custody will be put into deportation proceedings. We are awaiting new enforcement priorities from the Biden administration that will determine priorities for deportation depending on the category of convictions.
When do we get involved?
We start our work as an immigration firm when the ICE hold has begun and the criminal case is finalized. In major cities, you get taken to a processing center and an ICE officer is assigned to the case to review. They usually don't have overnight capacity in these facilities so the detainee is transferred into immigration custody within a day.
We start by looking at two things:
- Can we get this person out of immigration detention? We review whether we can get a bond or a parole request so that we can fight their case while they’re outside of detention. This is totally dependent on their criminal history. Most judges are really strict on domestic violence, arrests and even DWIs. Whether or not we can get someone a bond really depends on their judge and their history.
- Is there defense to deportation? Many who don’t qualify for bond do have the option of removal defense. We can then fight the case while the detainee remains in detention, which can take six months. It’s very stressful.
What do family members of a detainee need to know?
- Ask for their A-number. The detainee is going to be assigned an “Alien Number” as soon as they arrive in ICE custody at the processing center. Ask for their A-number when you call the detention center. That will help us check in the system where they're detained, add money to their commissary account, and check their court hearings. It’s a very critical piece of information.
- For a bond case, we need all of the relevant civil documents, including the birth certificates of the kids, the birth certificate of the immigrant, proof of whatever status the spouse has, marriage license(s), divorced decrees, if applicable, medical records, kids' school records, taxes, etc.
A bond requires us to prove that the person is not a danger to the community or a flight risk. The danger to the community is mainly measured by their criminal history, but also by assessing whether they have good moral character. They ask questions like, “Does this person attend church regularly? Do they volunteer? Do they pay their taxes?”
The flight risk focuses primarily on the length of time in the U.S. and any community ties that exist. Documents such as proof of address, tax returns, employment, pay stubs, kids' school records, bank statements are useful to tell your personal story and why you need to stay here.
Advice for Detainees
You have to remember the ICE officers are not your friends. Their job is to coerce you to agree to deportation. Even if they seem friendly and like they want to help you, do not agree to sign their documents. They will pressure people into agreeing to a voluntary return or a deportation, even if that person is eligible to stay here under some deportation defense.
ICE officers are not lawyers, which means they do no't understand the details and nuances of immigration law. Do not discuss your case or your eligibility. Do not sign anything. Call us and let us get involved. Let us do the communicating on your behalf with the ICE officers.
If you're from Mexico, call the consulate. Their number is on the wall in the processing centers. The consulate is very involved and helpful with their countrymen who are detained by immigration. They will communicate with family members, bring necessary items, help with providing medical treatment will also help connect you with lawyers.
ICE officers use all kinds of different tactics to pressure people, especially fear. They threaten everybody they detain with the fear of keeping them in detention for months on end if they don’t sign. Don’t believe them. They don't know whether you're eligible for anything. They don't know the facts of your case. You don't have to make a decision at the processing center. Wait for your lawyer.
We will always be honest with you. It’s possible that you could arrive at a detention center and talk to an attorney who tells you that your chances are not great and that you will have to stay in detention while we fight your case. At that point, you can make an informed decision not to fight your case in detention.
Once you make that decision, it's not immediate, but you can get yourself removed quickly, especially if you're Mexican because they can just drive straight to the border. It takes a little longer for people from other countries because they have to get approval from their countries’ consulate and then wait for the flight for the deportation. Signing a deportation process doesn't even speed the process up, so it's definitely worthwhile to consult with an attorney before you sign anything.
Even if you consulted with an attorney last year and they said that you're not eligible for anything, it's a different inquiry once you're in removal proceedings. There's lots of forms of relief that are available to people who are in deportation that aren't available to them otherwise.
If you've consulted with a lawyer who told you there's nothing they could do for you at that time, that doesn't mean you shouldn't fight your case. There's a whole other world that opens up to you in removal proceedings and you should get a new and fresh look at it once you've been apprehended and are in immigration custody.
If you have any further questions give us a call and we’ll be happy to help! 512-599-8500