One of the most common questions we receive at Henson Pachuta & Kammerman, PLLC is how to get a family member released from immigration detention on an immigration bond. When an immigrant is placed in deportation proceedings, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) will often detain the immigrant at the outset of the deportation case. While it is possible for an immigrant to be held in a local jail as an immigration detainee, most detained immigrants in Virginia are held in the Farmville Detention Center. In many cases, the immigrant can obtain a bond and be released from immigration custody during the pendency of the deportation proceedings.
Usually an immigrant is taken into immigration detention as the result of being booked or receiving a jail sentence at a local jail. County jails in Virginia work with ICE to screen and determine the immigration status of each person booked into the jail. An immigrant will be fingerprinted and questioned, and that information will be checked with a nationwide database. If ICE determines during that screen that the person should be placed in removal proceedings, they will issue an immigration detainer. Once an immigration detainer has been issued, the immigrant will be transferred directly upon release from the local jail to ICE custody. It is important to note that posting a bond for a criminal charge will result in the immigrant being taken by immigration directly to immigration detention – the immigrant will not be released from the local jail if ICE has issued an immigration detainer.
When an immigrant is initially taken into ICE custody, an immigration officer will decide whether the immigrant should be held in detention during removal proceedings. An ICE officer has the option of detaining the immigrant or, at their discretion, releasing the immigrant on parole. ICE officers are most likely to exercise favorable discretion and release the immigrant on parole if there are humanitarian concerns, such as a serious medical condition or if the immigrant is the only caretaker for a child. If the ICE officer decides not to release the immigrant on parole, the immigrant will be transferred to an immigration detention facility until they have a hearing before a judge at an immigration court. In Virginia, the largest detention facility is the Farmville Detention Center, and the Arlington Immigration Court serves the entire Commonwealth. To locate an immigrant who is being held by ICE, you can use the ICE detainee locator.
Once an immigrant has been taken to an immigration detention center and removal proceedings have been initiated, a bond motion can be filed with the Immigration Court. The court is primarily concerned with two factors – risk of flight and danger to the community. You should do everything you can to present evidence to show that the immigrant is not a flight risk and does not pose a danger to the community. The Immigration Court can grant the immigrant a bond in the minimum amount of $1,500 per INA § 236(a)(2)(A), although a bond between $5,000 and $10,000 is more typical.
To show that the immigrant is not a flight risk, it helps to establish ties to the community. You should plan to establish where in the US the immigrant has lived, and for how long. If the immigrant has US citizen or permanent resident family members living in the United States, you should collect identity documents from them such as birth certificates and passports. A copy of the immigrant’s lease agreement or proof of ownership of property is also helpful. Letters from employers, friends and family voicing support and testifying to the good character of the immigrant also helps to establish community ties.
To show that the immigrant is not a danger to the community, you should plan to address any prior criminal convictions or charges. The Department of Homeland Security has access to local and state police reports, as well as any statement made to ICE officers during their investigation of the immigrant. If possible, it is important to show that the immigrant has taken steps towards rehabilitation of past crimes, such as participation in drug and alcohol counseling or in a domestic violence program.
To pay the bond for an immigrant detained in Virginia, you must bring the payment along with the full name and alien registration number of the detainee to the ICE office in Fairfax or Richmond. The person paying the bond must show proof of identity and lawful immigration status. The Fairfax office is located at 2765 Prosperity Ave, Level C, Fairfax, VA 22031. The Richmond office is located at 9200 Arboretum Parkway Suite 140 Richmond, VA 23236. Bonds can be posted in either office, Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Once the bond is posted, the immigrant will be released from detention and the case in the immigration court will be placed on the non-detained docket, typically putting the case on a much longer timeline.
A bail bondsman is a third-party company that will act as a surety and pay the full amount of the immigration bond for a non-refundable fee. If possible, you should try to post the bond yourself and avoid using a bail bondsman. The reason is simple. If you post the bond, when the immigration case is concluded you will get your payment back in full. If you use a bail bondsman, you will pay a flat amount that you will never get back. Also, even if you use a bail bondsman, the bail bondsman will still hold you financially responsible if the immigrant misses court. The only time you should use a bail bondsman is if you are unable to post the entire bond amount, even with the help of your extended family and friends.
After you post the bond and the immigrant is released from detention, it is vitally important to keep track of the upcoming immigration court dates. You must be certain to update your address with the immigration court if you move, as the court will mail you notice of any changes to the immigrant’s court date. If you do not know when you are scheduled to appear in court, you can call the EOIR immigration court information line at 1-800-898-7180 and follow the prompts to get information on your next hearing date and time.