Immigration bond hearings: What you need to know


Earlier this year in January, President Trump signed executive orders designed to place greater focus on removal of certain immigrants that are in the country without permission. In February, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, issued memos detailing on how the President’s executive orders would be enforced. The memos expand the categories of people classified as “priorities for removal.”

This expansion has led to increased arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When a person is identified by ICE as an enforcement priority, they may be apprehended by ICE. Under most circumstances, the apprehended person then has the ability request an immigration bond hearing. An immigration bond is separate and distinct from a criminal bond, and must therefore be handled differently.

Often times, when a person is in state custody for a criminal offense, they are informed that they have an “ICE hold.” This means that ICE intends to detain the person once they no longer in state custody. Once in ICE custody, the person can request to have an immigration bond hearing before an immigration judge. ICE does have the ability to grant bonds directly, but this is most often left to the immigration judge to decide.

It is imperative to retain the services of an experienced immigration lawyer to represent you in the bond hearing before the immigration judge. There, it will be the job of the detained person and their attorney to persuade the immigration judge that the detained person is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the public, and that they should therefore be granted bond and released from ICE custody. Much of the decision is a question of the immigration judge’s discretion. This means that the immigration judge weighs evidence in front of him or her to determine if bond should be granted.

During the bond hearing, the immigration judge may ask the detained person, or their attorney, about family ties, employment, and past criminal history. Any criminal history is viewed as a negative factor that is weighed against other positive factors. Positive and negative factors should be provided to the judge before the bond hearing in a thorough and organized brief.

If there is criminal history, a key factor for a detained person and their attorney is to demonstrate rehabilitation by means of certificates showing participation in and/or completion of rehabilitation programs, letters in support of good moral character, substance abuse counseling, and other similar evidence. In addition to rehabilitation evidence, any other evidence showing positive factors should be presented to the immigration judge.

After all of these factors are considered by the immigration judge, a decision is made on whether or not bond should be granted. If bond is granted, the immigration judge will determine what the bond amount will be.

The immigration bond hearing is often one of the most crucial steps taken at any point in a person’s immigration process. There is no better time to have an experienced immigration attorney’s representation. At Wilner & O’Reilly, we specialize in all aspects of immigration law. If you or a loved one has an ICE hold, or is currently in ICE custody, reach out to one of our offices located in California, Idaho, and Utah.

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Kelly S. O’Reilly is a nationally known immigration expert and former immigration officer. He is a highly sought after speaker on immigration and employment compliance issues. Mr. O’Reilly serves as the current chair of the Riverside County Bar Association Immigration section and is a partner in the full-service immigration firm of the Wilner & O’Reilly where he provides free consultations. Mr. O’Reilly can be contacted at (714) 919-8880 and he welcomes email inquiries at kelly@wilneroreilly.com.  

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