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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.


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