An introduction to immigration detention: knowing your rights

Updated: Oct 5, 2018

Over the past months immigration detention centers have been a raging subject over the web. In addition to adults getting their loved ones taken away to those detentions, there is a growing and scandalous trend that is the baby jails.

Immigration laws are complicated and now shift everyday due to the strict zero tolerance policy infringed by the Trump administration. This article will serve to inform people of their rights and give them an overview of the detention process. Every case being different, the reasons why one may find themselves in immigration detention may vary. However, in most cases, it’s because the person in question is a removable alien.

A removable alien can be either a permanent resident also known as a green card holder who committed one or multiple removable crimes; an undocumented immigrant who comes across border patrol on U.S soil (and at times has an outstanding deportation order) or an asylum seeker at a port of entry meaning (airport and borders). These are the most common cases, but cases vary and anyone could find themselves in this situation nowadays.

Know your basic rights

First and foremost a lot of people tend to think that the laws of the United States don’t apply to them when it comes to seeking legal help because they’re not citizens, so they immediately think cooperating with ICE or Customs will get them a better outcome and end up saying things they shouldn’t have which become assets that the government attorney in the court of law can use against them.

If you ever find yourself in this predicament, remember that you have right to seek legal help and keep silence until you speak to an attorney, it’s called Miranda rights. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” – However, a free attorney will not be able to represent you in immigration court so you will have to get one at your expense.

Do NOT sign anything, often time ICE lies to you and makes you sign your deportation which waives your right to see an immigration judge and have a possible relief. Your signature will not stop them from processing you, they will write “refused to sign” on the dotted lines and continue the detention process, so it is crucial that you chose not to sign a thing. The immigration forms are complicated, and they don’t clearly say what you’re signing so something as simple as putting your signature somewhere is your next flight ticket to your country.

When in immigration custody, the goal is to get out of there, so the detainee is presented with options by the attorney on what kind of relief can be available. Depending on the situation, one can either ask ICE or the immigration judge for a bond. As for family members, as soon as you locate the detainee, you can make a phone call to their assigned deportation officer to get some information about the detainee and what procedures can be done to get them out of custody. Keep in mind to watch what you say to them; deportation officers are not your friends, they work for ICE and ICE’s job is to deport people. The only person you can seek legal advice from is the attorney; he needs to know the full story.

The next step is to find out if ICE has set a bond. The “bond” is similar to “bail” in the criminal courts. It is an amount of money paid to ICE to guarantee that the detainee will show up for future court dates and obey whatever order the judge ultimately issues. The money will be returned if the detainee follows through—or forfeited if they flee. ICE bonds are usually asked through a sponsor petition where someone agrees to make sure that the detainee will attend court hearings, provide food and housing as well. Under the law, some people aren’t eligible for bonds if they’re considered a flight risk, in layman’s term if ICE or the judge considers you a danger to the community, have no strong family ties they require that you stay inside and fight the case. The bond set by the judge are usually smaller amounts ($1500 to $10 000) while the bonds set by ICE are ridiculously high, so they could be from $12 000 to $35 000 (DO NOT EVER CHALLENGE THE BOND AMOUNT THEY WILL EITHER RAISE IT OR TAKE IT AWAY). The person planning to pay the bond on the detainee’s behalf, will need to have legal status in the U.S. and bring photo identification and plan to pick up the detainee —not all detention centers will give them a ride to the nearest bus station or airport.

After the bond hearing, a master calendar hearing is scheduled where the immigrant shows up to court to either deny or accept the alleged charges by the government. It is recommended to show up to court with a lawyer who knows the full story, so they could know what tactic they will employ to defend your case. Going to court by yourself is risky and you risk losing your case since the laws are complicated so leave everything to an immigration lawyer and make sure you show up to court on time. That is your only job. Keep in mind that the bond money won’t be reimbursed if you don’t show up to court and will automatically turn into an order of deportation


Before the Trump administration, a person couldn’t spend more than 6 months in immigration detention because it was unconstitutional and the lawyer could set an hearing to ask for the detainee’s release since being detained for so long looks like they’re paying for a sentence and immigration detention centers are usually non-criminal facilities however this year it was ruled by the supreme court that ICE can detain you for however long they please, and a decision for release is discretionary so the option of having an Habeas Corpus is voided under this new policy.

Now that you’re outside, your attorney will follow up with a change of venue motion to get your case from the detention center moved to your local immigration court, depending on how busy your city is, your case might go on for months and even years so while this is going on you can work towards your dreams and wait for a final decision in the court of law.

    Helpful Links

https://www.uscis.gov/greencard Possible relief

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-if-youre-stopped-police-immigration-agents-or-fbi - The power of knowing your rights

https://www.gofundme.com Seeking monetary help from fundraising (any cause)

Written by Mendiana Merilus

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