Last June, federal authorities announced that a three-day immigration sweep across Southern California resulted in 162 arrests for being in the United States illegally. Most of those arrested allegedly had criminal records, while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials identified the rest as immigration fugitives or illegal re-entrants. As these immigration arrests continue under the current administration, people are left wondering what to do when a loved one is arrested and detained by ICE. An arrest for a minor offense like driving without a valid license could trigger an immigration case and possible deportation. What should you do if this happens to a member of your family? Locate Your Relative You can search for a family member using the Online Detainee Locator System . You will need the following information:
- The person’s nine-digit-long A-Number and/or their exact name
- Country of birth
If your relative is in custody, it will indicate where. Detention facilities have visiting hours, but it’s important to be aware that federal centers do thorough background and immigration checks on visitors. If you or any family members don’t have status, you could be detained and subject to removal. Contact a Deportation Defense Attorney Unlike criminal court proceedings where the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant’s right to counsel, non-citizens are not provided with legal representation at immigration hearings. This means that you and your family must reach out to an immigration attorney who will protect your loved one’s best interests. Time is of the essence when it comes to securing legal counsel. Your family member could unknowingly waive potential deportation defenses when they don’t understand their rights. While there are no guarantees, an attorney can help prevent the person’s deportation by raising certain defenses that could work in their favor. For example, if your family member lacks status but has been living in California for several years, has no criminal record, and can prove that they’ve paid taxes on all income, their good character could present a deportation defense. Arranging for Release on Bond Like criminal courts, an immigration court will approach the subject of release on bond. If your family member was previously deported or presently faces serious criminal charges, this opportunity may be denied. If they have a clear record, they may be released, either after a bond is posted or on their own recognizance. (The latter is usually applied only for humanitarian reasons, such as the need to care for an elderly relative or small child.) If you can produce supporting letters from friends, family, employers, and other members of the community, it can prove to ICE and the immigration judge that the person has strong ties to the community and is not a flight risk. Contact Us Deportation does not happen overnight. Before any non-citizen can be removed from the U.S., the government must prove that there is a valid reason for doing so. At Landerholm Immigration, we will work with you and your family to present the most effective defense strategy, such as withholding of removal, asylum, or voluntary departure. As soon as you know that your loved one needs an attorney, call our San Francisco office at (510) 756-4468 . We’re here for you!