Asylum Seekers and Undocumented Immigrants Held in Detention Centers
An immigration policy that allowed asylum seekers to be released pending a hearing before an immigration judge is about to end. The policy, sometimes referred to as catch and release, allowed immigration officials to release asylum seekers into the United States and sometimes track them using ankle monitors until their hearings.
This policy was mainly put in place in response to the shortage in suitable places to hold asylum seekers waiting for hearings. Critics of the policy argued that it made the immigration problem worse because people who were released could simply disappear into society and not reappear for hearings or be otherwise tracked.
Ending the policy now and seeking to detain all asylum seekers as they come into the United States while they wait for a hearing could mean longer detention times for the asylum seekers. Currently, immigration detention centers are often overcrowded, and the conditions are not ideal. Adding more people into the detention system may make these problematic conditions worse than they already are. Asylum seekers have rights that should be honored even in detention, although sometimes this does not happen.
If your loved one is held in a detention center, you can try and locate him or her using the detainee locator on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website. You can also speak to immigration officials and try to get into contact with the detained person. In communicating with immigration officials, you should be careful about what information you provide, as it may be used against the detained person. Even something as simple as providing the person’s country of origin and information on what they are doing the United States can make matters worse for the detainee. Ensuring that the detained person has an experienced attorney could be the best help you can give him or her.
An immigrant held in a detention center can be released if a judge grants the asylum claim or otherwise allows his or her release. Immigration officials may also offer to release the detained person if he signs paperwork for voluntary departure. However, signing these forms can mean that the detained person, who may have a good legal claim for asylum, loses that opportunity and has to leave the country.
Bond is sometimes available for some detained immigrants, and if they can pay the bond, they can wait for their hearing without being in a detention center. If the detainee has been convicted of a criminal offense, bond may not be possible in their case. This is especially true if the convictions are for aggravated felonies involving violence or for drug crimes.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
If someone you know is detained and waiting for an immigration hearing, it is important that they be represented by an attorney during this hearing. Having an attorney during a hearing for an asylum claim or during an appeal increases the applicant’s chances of being granted asylum. For legal assistance, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.
Leaving the United States Voluntarily as an Undocumented Immigrant
With the increased pressure to deport immigrants, some immigrants have begun to consider a voluntary return to their countries of origin in order to leave the United States on their own terms. This voluntary departure is sometimes called self-deportation or attrition through enforcement. While self-deportation is presented as a choice, it is not always so, and is often more like a forced choice.
Government policies can target immigrants and try to encourage self-deportation by limiting access to social services or benefits, work options, and educational opportunities. Essentially, by taking away these benefits and opportunities, the government seeks to make life difficult for immigrants until they choose to leave the United States on their own. Proponents of self-deportation support the process because it is cheaper than government deportation and because deportations by the government are unpopular with many voters.
An immigrant who has been arrested for being in the country illegally and put through removal proceedings may sometimes be given an opportunity to leave the country voluntary, making his or her own travel arrangements and getting an opportunity to finalize matters in the United States before leaving. An immigrant who has been given an opportunity for voluntary departure is given a certain date by which to leave the country, and if he or she has not left by that date, a deportation order (an order of removal) is entered against him or her. If an immigrant accepts the voluntary departure option, the 10-year ban on later returning to the United States legally may not apply.
Unfortunately, voluntary departure or self-deportation is not an easy choice for many immigrants no matter how tough the climate in the United States becomes. For some, there is no home to return to, having spent decades in the United States, which is the only true home they know. Additionally, returning to the United States after self-deportation is not as easy as applying for a new visa.
Strangely enough, when some immigrants attempt to leave the United States voluntarily through a border checkpoint, they may be arrested, prosecuted for being in the country illegally and formally deported. Having a formal record of deportation is worse for the immigrant because once the person goes through a formal deportation process it becomes increasingly harder for the person to return to the country. If a deported person later returns to the country illegally, and is again arrested, he or she can face criminal charges for the reentry after deportation. Prosecution for reentry after deportation can lead to a fine and prison time, as well as a permanent ban on returning to the United States.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Voluntarily choosing to leave the United States, whether you are undocumented or of legal status, can have legal repercussions in terms of your ability to return to the United States at a later date. You may have legal options to adjust your status while in the United States, before you decide to leave, so contact an experienced immigration attorney for a consultation. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.
Denial of Entry into the United States Despite Valid Visa or Immigration Status
The executive order on immigration signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017, affected many immigrants headed to the United States from seven particular countries, until a temporary pause was placed on it by a federal judge. This nationwide pause was upheld on appeal on February 4, 2017, and immigrants from the seven countries are now allowed to continue coming to the United States as further appeals are made to higher courts. The confusion caused by the executive order raised the question of what discretion United States customs and border protection agents have to refuse entry to travelers who have valid visas previously issued through the Department of State.
United States customs and border protection agents have to follow the policies and rules issued under law and through executive orders. Therefore, if the ban on the president’s executive order is lifted, these agents will again follow the language of that order. However, with or without the executive order, United States customs and border protection agents have broad powers to conduct searches and conduct inquiries of the people seeking to enter the country.
United States customs and border protection agents also have discretion when admitting people into the country, and in some cases they can refuse a person entry despite the person’s possession of a valid visa. Denial of entry usually happens for reasons such as possession of improper travel documents, stated travel activities that do not match those given for the visa application, smuggling prohibited items, and a history of criminal activity or immigration violations. A person who holds an expired visa will also be denied entry under that visa.
A nonimmigrant travelling to the United States who is refused entry and has his visa cancelled at the port of entry is usually limited in the way he can appeal the denial of entry. Denial of entry usually results in the person being returned to his home country, where he can try to get another visa through the United States embassy there. Immigrants with valid green cards, and who have not been away from the Unites States for long periods of time, have more avenues to seek an appeal of denial of entry based on a United States customs and border protection agent’s discretion.
The ultimate validity of the executive order on immigration is unknown at this time, and may keep changing until the case is heard before the United States Supreme Court. In the meantime, people with valid visas to travel to the United States should make plans to travel as soon as possible in case the executive order’s ban is reinstated.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
Any green card holder who was detained under the Executive Order and signed paperwork unknowingly, relinquishing his or her green card status can challenge the loss of rights, especially if the green card holder signed paperwork following false representation by border agents. For more information on what rights you have to challenge cancelled visas or a loss of lawful permanent resident status, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.