While deportation is usually the biggest concern for immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), getting out of an ICE detention facility is usually a close second. As ICE facilities are becoming more overcrowded and more frequent reports of poor treatment, it’s always preferable to tackle your immigration case at home with your family rather than waiting inside a detention facility.
The good news is through the American bond system, many immigrants are afforded the opportunity to post a bond that allows them to live at home while their case is argued in immigration court. Not everyone qualifies and it can be financially challenging to post bond in some cases, but your chances are significantly improved with the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.
What is a Bond?
In simplest terms, a bond is a specific amount of money that serves as collateral for the court to release you from the detention center. As long as you continue to appear in court as required and follow the judge’s orders, you’ll receive the full bond amount back at the conclusion of your case — even if you are ultimately deported. However, if you miss a scheduled hearing or otherwise violate the terms of your release, you forfeit the bond.
You have the right to stake the entire bond amount yourself, but most people don’t have enough cash sitting in the bank to pay their own bond. Turning to friends and family for help is allowed, though it certainly comes with risks for those who pay a bond on your behalf. In most cases, the popular alternative is to work with a bail bondsman or bail bond agency.
When working with a bondsman, the agency usually agrees to post the full bond amount with the court in return for you paying them a non-refundable portion of the bond. At the conclusion of your case, the court will return the bond to the bondsman, and the agency will keep your deposit as payment. Think of it like you’re paying interest on a short-term loan.
Requesting a Bond Hearing
To request being released on bond, you’ll first have to request a bond hearing. You can do this in person at your Master Calendar Hearing, or you can file a written motion for a bond hearing with the Immigration Court.
Whether you choose to request a bond hearing in person or by written motion, keep in mind that you aren’t guaranteed a bond hearing simply because you ask for one. To improve your chances, you’ll want to work with an experienced immigration attorney.
Not only does hiring an attorney boost your prospects of receiving a bond hearing, but when it’s time for the hearing the attorney may be able to argue for a lower, more affordable bond amount.
Is Everyone Eligible for a Bond Hearing?
Your eligibility for a bond depends on a variety of factors, including your current legal status, why ICE detained you, and whether you’ve committed certain crimes in the United States. Regardless of how well-crafted your motion for a bond hearing is, an immigration judge is powerless to grant you a bond if any of the following conditions apply:
- You have not been lawfully admitted into the United States at a Port of Entry by US Customs and Border Patrol (e.g. undocumented immigrants)
- You are classified as an Arriving Alien (e.g. non-citizens returning to the United States from international travel)
- While in the United States, you committed certain crimes that disqualify you for being released on bond, including fraud, theft, violent crimes, and drug charges
- You have participated in activities that threaten US national security interests, including terrorism, sabotage, espionage, and attempts to overthrow the government
Unfortunately, all of these situations require mandatory detention and render you ineligible for release on a bond. However, if you believe you are innocent of the above charges and your bond is denied by mistake — perhaps due to a case of mistaken identity, or incorrect records — you can request what is called a “Joseph Hearing” to present evidence that you’re eligible for a bond.
What to Expect at a Bond Hearing
Most bond hearings take place right before your Master Calendar Hearing. Many ICE detention centers have an immigration court onsite. Those that don’t will have to transport you to the immigration court by bus, or set up a video conference from the detention facility.
When your hearing begins, the judge will quickly review your immigration status and determine your eligibility for a bond. Providing you are eligible, the judge will then determine whether you are a flight risk based on the following factors:
- Do you have family ties in the United States
- Do you own or rent your home?
- Are you currently employed?
- Do you qualify for relief from removal (e.g. asylum, marriage-based green card)
To prove your case that you are not a flight risk, you can invite family members to attend the bond hearing (make sure they’re US citizens or lawful permanent residents, though). These individuals probably won’t be asked to testify, but their presence serves as physical evidence of your family ties. Other helpful forms of evidence include:
- A marriage certificate to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident
- Birth certificates of US-born children
- Pay stubs to verify steady employment
- A letter from your employer
- Letters from family and friends that demonstrate your ties to the community and the United States
In addition to assessing any possible flight risk, the immigration judge will need to determine if you present a danger to the United States. Your criminal record will be the most important piece of evidence. If you have a criminal record, you should strongly consider providing the judge with letters from family and friends attesting to your improved character. Evidence that you’ve successfully completed rehabilitation programs like substance abuse counseling or anger management are helpful, too.
After the Bond Hearing
Assuming the judge grants your request for bond, the court will issue a written order. Your Master Calendar hearing will be rescheduled in the next 30 days, providing you time to pay the bond and be released from the detention center before the hearing.
As soon as you post the bond, you should be released from custody. The DHS attorney assigned to your case will file a Motion to Change Venue so that the Master Calendar Hearing will take place at the court location nearest to your home address. You’ll receive a notice in the mail with the date, location, and time for your next hearing.
Receive Help With a Bond Hearing in Arizona
Whether a family member is currently detained, or you are preparing for the possibility of being detained, working with an immigration attorney can only benefit your situation. An immigration attorney is the best option when already detained, as they will work with a bond agency to get you released and then can also represent you in a deportation defense trial.
As an Arizona based law firm, JacksonWhite and our lead immigration attorney, Pace Rowlins, frequently help families detained at ports of entry on the Arizona-Mexico border. Do what is best for the future of your family and contact our immigration team to see how we can help.