Detainees / Individuals Seeking Relief While In Ice Custody / Bond Hearings

By Romben Aquino, Immigration Attorney*

It can be a very scary and harrowing time when your loved one is taken into the custody of immigration officials. I find that the first question that the clients at the Pasadena based Fong & Aquino have is “How did this happen?” Sometimes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (also known as “ICE”) may have had a warrant for the arrest. Other times, ICE will place an “immigration hold” upon individuals who had contact with the criminal justice system, be it an arrest, or the completion of a jail sentence. After having that question answered, the thing that weighs heavily on my clients’ minds is “what happens next?”

Normally, ICE will serve a Notice to Appear upon the individual. The Notice to Appear details the charges that ICE alleges to be violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This charging document initiates removal proceedings and informs an individual that he or she will need to appear in front of an Immigration Judge.

Even before the first court hearing date, an individual may be eligible for bond. We can request a bond hearing from the Immigration Court having jurisdiction over the detention facility. If an individual has not committed any of the crimes that make detention mandatory, the Immigration Judge has the power to weigh an individual’s negative aspects (prior immigration violations, nature and number of convictions, etc.) against his or her positive equities (family members, length of stay in the United States, likelihood of appearing at future court appearances, and availability of relief) and determine whether to allow an individual’s release during the court proceedings in exchange for a bond.

If bond is denied, the Immigration Judge will conduct removal proceedings while your loved one remains in custody. Everything that happens in a non-detained removal proceeding -- taking of pleadings, contesting ICE’s charges, submission of applications, and merits hearing on the applications for relief -- takes place at a very rapidly. (In my experience, the proceedings will conclude within four to seven months.)

When an individual is detained at taxpayers’ expense, it is in the government’s interest to move at breakneck speeds to conclude the proceedings as quickly as it can. It is in YOUR interest quickly find an attorney who has been through the process and can help guide you and your loved one through the ordeal. If your loved one is qualified for relief from removal, then he or she should not have to spend more time in custody than is necessary.

If there is already a prior order of deportation or removal, ICE will move quickly to execute the order. You should speak with an experienced immigration attorney to determine if there is a basis for a motion to reopen which might stop the deportation.

* Mr Aquino is of counsel to the Pasadena immigration law offices of Fong & Aquino, and practices as a removal and deportation defense attorney.

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