It is another beautiful sunny day in Southern California. You go to work. You are in the middle of whatever project your boss has given you. Or you are at home, it's very early in the morning, and you hear somebody knocking on your door. You open the door and... the world as you know it suddenly comes to an end. Well, not exactly, but it may seem like it. Your workplace or home is just being raided by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE). You are in the United States without permission and/or are working without authorization. Not surprisingly, the ICE officers take you into custody. What should you expect now?
Understandably, you are nervous and scared. The ICE officers are not your friends, although they may be nice toward you. In most instances, they are mean. Despite your fears and concerns, you should be aware of the following. You do not have to answer any questions. You can cooperate, but you can also remain silent. You do not have to give the ICE officers your name or your country of birth. You do not have to sign any documents, either. This is especially crucial, as the ICE officers may try to trick you into signing away your right to see an Immigration Judge. However, you should not lie or present any fraudulent documents. The ICE officers will likely discover the documents are not valid and you will be a much bigger predicament. You should request to speak to an attorney and to have a hearing before an Immigration Judge at the location nearest to you. Keep in mind that you are responsible for hiring your own attorney - the government will not pay for it. You also have a right to make a phone call after you have been arrested.
Depending on the severity of your immigration violation, you may be eligible for bond once you have been placed in the ICE custody. This means that a removal officer, probably a different one from the arresting officer, will examine your case. This determination should take place within 48 hours of your arrest. The immigration law allows for non-citizens found in violation of immigration regulations to be released on bond or on their own recognizance unless they are subject to mandatory detention. The bond determination is made by the ICE officers or by the Immigration Judge. The minimum bond is $1,500.00.
To qualify for bond, you may have to show local family ties and ability to post bond. Your prior criminal and immigration violations will be considered as well as whether or not you are a flight risk or pose threat to the community. Ownership of real property and long employment history are also helpful factors.
When the Immigration Judge sets bond, the government can appeal the decision. This is usually the case when the government was against the bond in the first place or the bond amount was more than $10,000.00. If the government appeals the bond determination and files a stay, you may have to remain in custody until the appeal is processed. If you are granted bond and are able to post it, you will be released.
Immigration court proceedings
Most violations of the immigration law can lead to being placed in removal proceedings. The government will initiate the case by filing a document called Notice to Appear with the Immigration Court. The Notice to Appear contains certain factual statements about you as well as the reference to the law under which you are being removed. You have a right to be properly notified of the place and time to appear. Keep in mind that if you were handed a copy of the Notice to Appear in detention, you have been given proper notice of your immigration court case. You are now under the obligation to keep your address current with the Immigration Court.
If you reside in the Los Angeles area or any surrounding counties, you will be fighting your case before the Los Angeles Immigration Court. The Los Angeles Immigration Court has approximately 26 judges. You have no control which judge will be presiding over your case. Unless your judge retires or transfers out, he or she will see your case through to the bitter end.
On average, a typical immigration case in court will take about 1 to 2 years. You can represent yourself in removal proceedings or you can hire an attorney. If you go to your first hearing without an attorney, you can ask for a continuance to get one. In fact, most judges automatically will give you time to get an attorney, as they prefer that you are represented by counsel. The reason for it is the complexity of the immigration laws and procedures. Unless you are really familiar with the immigration laws, you should seriously consider hiring a reputable attorney who has immigration courtroom experience. Otherwise, you will have to act as your own attorney.
Regardless of the outcome in your case, either you and/or the government can appeal the Immigration Judge's decision. If any party wishes the appeal, the Immigration Judge's decision will not be final for 30 days from the day it is rendered. If the appeal is filed, the decision of the Immigration Judge is stayed until the appeal is decided.
Our office has assisted many clients in their removal proceedings. Please call us if you have any questions. We will be glad to help you.