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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Important Things to Know if You are Detained

1. If you are arrested by the police, do not volunteer information about your immigration status to them. (However, if you are represented by a criminal defense attorney, make sure that you disclose your status to the attorney, so they can advise you of the immigration consequences of any plea deals that you take).

2. If you are arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you have the right not to sign any statements or documents. DO NOT volunteer any information about your status, as anything you say can be used against you at a later time. DO NOT lie to the immigration officer, as lying about your status can result in serious punishments. SAY YOU WANT TO SPEAK TO A LAWYER.

3. Once you have been processed, make sure you write down the name and phone number of the immigration officer assigned to you. You should also be given a "Notice to Appear" (NTA), which will contain the charges against you. Make sure you have your alien registration number (A11 111 1111). If you do not know your number, try to contact a family member.

4. You have the right to make a phone call. Call either your family or an attorney.

5. Always keep your legal documents with you at all times. Make sure that your documents are not processed as "personal property". Make sure that your family also has a copy of your legal documents.

6. If your family does not know where you are detained, they can call ICE headquarters at 202-305-2734, or go online at They will need your full name and your alien registration number.

7. Your family may be able to visit you while you are detained. DO NOT HAVE UNDOCUMENTED FAMILY MEMBERS VISIT YOU.

8. You should always request a Bond Hearing. Payment of the bond will allow you get out of detention pending your case. A bond is moneys paid to the government to guarantee that you return for the hearings. Some people maybe released without a bond, such as women who are pregnant. Some people are not eligible for a bond, example, if you have a previous deportation order, if you have certain criminal convictions, if you were arrested at the border or airport, or if the government suspects you of having terrorist ties. You can request that the immigration judge lower your bond, if you can not afford the amount set. The judge has the power to lower the bond to $1500.

9. At the bond hearing, you want to the convince the judge that you are not a risk to flee if bond is granted. Make sure you bring to the bond hearing any documents that show you have a permenant address, stable employment, relatives with legal status in the US, or any documents showing evidence of strong ties to the communitiy. Testimony from family members and friends is also helpful at bond hearings. Written letters of support can also be used.

10. If you have criminal record, you need to get a copy of your criminal history. This can be obtained in the Clerk's office of the County where you were convicted or arrested. If you previously had a criminal defense attorney, they will also have criminal records.

11. You do not have the right to a free attorney in immigration proceedings. Once you have been detained, the case can move forward very quickly. Therefore, you need to contact an attorney AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

12. The deportation officer should give you a list of free legal service providers. If he/she does not provide you with one, ASK.

13. When hiring attorney, make sure they have experience with deportations. Make sure that the attorney has seen your NTA before he/she makes any promises of what he/she can do for you. Always request a written contract (engagment letter or retainer agreeement) with your attorney. Always keep the engagement letter or retainer agreeement with you. Always keep all correspondences between you and your attorney.

14. There are generally 2 types of hearings after you are detained, "Master Calender", and "Individual Hearing". A master calender is short hearing where you can tell the judge whether you wish to contest the deportation. You can also ask for additional time to find an attorney, if you wish to contest. If you proceed without an attorney, DENY the charges, and make the government prove thier case. If you are applying for a way to stay in the US legally, you will have an individual hearing.

15. If you are contesting the deportation, you can ask the judge at the master calender hearing for voluntary removal. This may avoid later penalties, barring you from re-entering the US.

Detailed information about the above can be found at National Immigration Project. Link

James C. Tai

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