What to Do After Learning Family or Friends Have Been Detained by ICE


The U.S. government is using detention with increasing frequency as a means of dealing with undocumented or otherwise removable immigrants after their arrest. When a friend or family member has been placed in detention, it can be difficult to try to discover information on the person’s whereabouts. It is important to know that you are not alone and that resources are available to support you.


If someone you know or care about has been arrested or detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or transferred to an immigration detention center, locating them is the first step to supporting them. You can still find someone in detention even if they have not reached out to you. You can possibly find out the person’s location using the ICE detainee locator website. It will help to have the person’s Alien Number (A#) on hand, if any. A green card or work permit will show this number. Otherwise you’ll need to know the person’s date of birth, country of birth, and name as it appears in ICE’s system.


The system does not give information for people under 18 years of age. In such cases, you’ll need to contact the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations field office nearest you. If the person is not in ICE-operated detention facility, he or she may have been taken to a local jail or correctional facility. You’ll want to start calling all the ones in the area.


If the detainee is located in an ICE facility, your next step is to try and call his or her deportation officer. The officer can tell you how to call or visit the detainee – or pay for the detainee to be able to call you – and how you can send any needed items. It’s very important that you are careful about what you reveal to the officer. Say nothing about the person’s country of citizenship or immigration status (or the lack thereof) in the United States, as anything you say can be used as evidence against the detainee in immigration court.


Another option (or necessity, if the ICE officer refuses to speak with you) is to hire an experienced immigration attorney to assist you in tracking down the deportation officer and maintaining lines of communication. It is imperative to act rapidly, especially if the detainee has been deported from the U.S. previously or has an outstanding removal order (in which case he or she has no right to see an immigration judge). A detainee can be removed within a few days, or even hours, of the initial detention. Even if the government does not immediately remove the person, it sometimes transfers detainees between facilities – sometimes in other states, if the person appears to have no immediate family in the area – without warning.


When someone is in an immigration detention facility, you should request that they are released as soon as possible. Most of the time, it’s better to get out of the detention facility and have an immigration judge hear the case later. An immigration lawyer will be able to help with the process. The first step to getting the detainee released, is to figure out whether 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.


Either an immigration judge or a district director may set a bond for an immigrant’s release. Under the law, some people may not be eligible for bond, and must remain in the detention facility until an immigration judge decides whether they should be deported or not. The minimum bond amount is set at $1,500 but it can go much higher than that, up to $20,000 or more. If you are planning on paying this on the detainee’s behalf, you will need to have legal status is the U.S. After the bond hearing, the immigration judge will set a “Master Calendar” hearing date. At the Master Calendar hearing, the immigrant will answer the government’s allegations and request any forms of relief to which he or she may be entitled. If the person claims some form of relief, the judge will set an “Individual Hearing” date. The whole removal process can take years, or it can take a few months, depending on the kind of relief the detainee has available, whether the court docket is crowded, and several other factors.


Please note even if a detainee has an order of removal you can still request that they be released and be granted work authorization. Being detained by immigration does not mean that there is no hope for the detainee!

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