Helping a Detained Immigrant

The sudden detention of a loved one is tremendously difficult to experience for a family. Despite the urgency of the situation, it is important to remember that deportations typically take weeks, if not months. This section will outline some steps that you can take to locate someone in detention and understand how to advocate for them.

Who can be deported?

Anyone who is without documents or who had a temporary stay which expired can be deported. In addition, those with status who have been convicted for certain criminal offenses can be deported. It is important to understand that immigration law does not define “conviction” the same way that state law does. If you have a pending criminal case, make sure that your criminal attorney consults with a knowledgeable immigration attorney to ensure that any pleas or admissions you make in court do not result in your deportation.

Most people subject to deportation have a right to due process. This means that you will have the opportunity to make your case in front of an immigration judge. However, there are exceptions to this:

  1. If you are caught within two weeks of entering the country, you could be subject to a procedure known as “expedited removal”. This procedure allows the government to deport you without due process, and you will not be able to see an immigration judge unless you can make a credible claim for asylum.
  2. If a judge has already issued a removal order against you, you can be deported at any time without an opportunity to see an immigration judge. This can happen if you had already been to court and received a removal order, but never left the country. This can also happen if you were already deported and you reentered the country illegally.

Some people receive what are called in absentia removal orders. These are removal orders issued when the individual fails to show up for an immigration court hearing. This can happen when the individual was not made aware that they even had a court hearing; for example, the notice of the hearing date and time was mailed to the wrong address. If you think you might have missed a court hearing at any time, you should call the immigration court’s automated system at (800) 898-7180. You can use this system to look up your immigration case history, if any, using only your Alien number.

 How do I find someone who has been picked up by ICE?

It can sometimes take weeks to find someone who has just been detained by immigration. These are some steps that you can take:

  • Contact the Boston Field Office for Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) at (781) 359-7500. ERO is part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and their Boston Field Office is responsible for all of New England. Only call if you are certain your loved one has been detained by immigration. It is best if you can provide his/her Alien Number (also called an A# or USCIS#) or date of birth.  Outside of New England, click here to find information for your local Enforcement and Removal Operations Office.

  • Use ICE’s Online Detainee Locator. ICE has an online system for locating immigration detainees. To use the system, you need either:

(a) the person’s Alien Number and their country of birth; or

(b) the person’s first and last names, country of birth, and date of birth.
 

  • Contact your consulate. Consulates are often required by international convention or treaty to be informed when one of their nationals is detained.

What are the legal options?

Bond - If an individual is detained by ICE, they have an opportunity to apply for bond either with ICE or before an immigration judge. A bond application might be successful only if the individual can show that they are (1) not a flight risk and will attend all immigration court dates and (2) are not a danger to the community. Minimum bond amounts are $1,500, but the average is between $7,500 and $10,000, which the individual will get back either at the end of the court proceedings or after being deported. An individual will only have one opportunity to apply for bond, so make sure to do it through an attorney who is knowledgeable with court procedures! The Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project (PAIR) is often able to arrange for free legal support for bond and can be reached at (617) 742-9296.

Legal Defense – Unlike with criminal cases, the government is not required to provide an attorney in immigration court, and few organizations are able to provide free legal representation. Those with a court hearing should receive a List of Pro Bono Legal Service Providers from the government, which you can also access here [PDF]. Unfortunately, these organizations are not capable of representing everyone with a court case, and many are restricted to only representing those who are below certain income levels. If someone can afford to pay an attorney to represent them in court, they can find a referral to a qualified immigration attorney through the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Prosecutorial Discretion

In the past, ICE would exercise “Prosecutorial Discretion” and decide not enforce the law against individuals who are not considered a priority for the agency. Since January 2017, ICE has dramatically expanded their priorities while also decided to end the practice of exercising prosecutorial discretion against those who are not a priority. While it is still possible to request prosecutorial discretion, ICE will look at each case on its individual merits and will only exercise discretion in cases where there is a  very clear and urgent humanitarian situation.