What to Do When an Unauthorized Immigrant Gets Arrested

Did you know that unauthorized immigrants make up nearly a quarter of the US foreign-born population? If you or a loved one is an unauthorized immigrant, then you likely live in fear of potential ICE arrest.

While it can be a terrifying possibility to consider, it’s important to prepare. When you know how the immigrant detainment system works, as well as your rights when detained, you have the best possible chance at your immigration hearing.

That’s why we made this guide. In it, we’ll go over everything you need to know about what to do following an unauthorized immigrant arrest. Let’s get started!

How An Unauthorized Immigrant Typically Gets Arrested

Before we take a look at what to do when an undocumented immigrant gets arrested, we first need to take a look at how it happens. This is important because it determines how you can find the individual that’s being held in custody.

Usually, we think that ICE is the agency that handles all arrests. While they do perform the vast majority of them, the individual can be taken into custody by any law enforcement agency.

Typically, this happens if the unauthorized immigrant has a traffic violation or gets arrested for a criminal violation. But, for the most part, these individuals are likely to only be apprehended by ICE agents.

So, where does ICE typically arrest people? Most commonly either during a workplace raid or at the house of the individual. This is why you should never answer the door for an ICE agent if you’re an unauthorized immigrant.

Unless they have a warrant for your arrest, they can’t legally enter your home. Not sure of your immigration status? Follow this advice to find out.

Most of the time ICE will avoid sensitive areas, like places of religious worship, schools, healthcare facilities, and other types of public gatherings.

That being said, ICE agents have been known to use dubious methods like driving around in unmarked white vans and misidentifying themselves as police offers. While these methods are misleading, they’re unfortunately legal. 

What Happens Directly After the Arrest? 

What happens after your arrest depends on who you were arrested by. For example, if ICE agents arrested you, then you will likely be interviewed and placed into custody.

But, it’s not as simple if you were arrested by another law enforcement agency (or LEA). When this happens, the LEA will typically contact ICE and tell them they have a likely unauthorized immigrant.

ICE will then place a detainer on that individual. This is used when ICE agents can’t get to the person immediately. So, instead, they ask the law enforcement officers to hold them for some time until they can get there and interview the individual.

This will determine whether or not they’re taken into official custody. Legally, an ICE detainer cannot hold you for more than forty-eight hours. If this period passes, then it’s against the law to hold you.

That being said, many officers either don’t know this or will ignore it. Since this is a violation of your federal rights, you are entitled to file a petition with a federal court.

In it, you can either challenge the conditions of your detention or seek out civil damages. If you’re trying to find a loved one that’s been arrested, then your best chance is ICE’s online detainee locator system.

However, keep in mind that they likely won’t be in the system until ICE officially decides to take them into custody.

Also, remember that ICE doesn’t always put the people they arrest into custody. Often they will let parents and young children go home as long as they’re monitored. 

Removal Proceedings Begin

After the arrest has been placed in the ICE agent’s hands, they’ll decide whether or not to begin removal proceedings. If they decide that there is enough evidence, then they will charge you.

Typically, the charge will be either unlawful entry or overstaying in the country on a nonimmigrant visa. In some cases, they might add additional criminal charges if they’re applicable.

The ICE agents will start the removal proceedings by serving you a notice to appear (also known as an NTA). This document will list the charges against you and the date of your deportation hearing.

Keep in mind that after being detained the ICE agents have seventy-two hours to serve you with an NTA. If they neglect to do this or issue an incomplete one, then you may be able to get out of it.

Regardless of the status of your NTA, you have a right to fight the charges by meeting with an immigration judge. This is true even if the charges are true. Some judges may still be willing to grant you relief from removal. 

Transfer to Immigration Detention

Once you’re in ICE custody, you will eventually be transferred to a holding facility. This facility might be operated by ICE, or it could be a private contractor.

When you’re detained, ICE will give you one free phone call to contact a loved one. Because of this, you should make sure that you memorize the phone number of a loved one.

If you can’t remember or no one is picking up, don’t panic. You can establish an inmate account to make more phone calls. But, you will need to pay for them.

Assuming you can’t get a call out, then it will be up to your loved ones to find you. Unfortunately, this can be challenging. ICE isn’t obligated to keep you in a local facility.

So, there’s a good chance you could end up in another state entirely. Remember that when you’re in custody you don’t need to sign anything. So, if ICE agents are pressuring you to make sure you refuse.

These could be documents that forfeit your right to a proper immigration hearing. If you don’t speak English, then you also have the right to an interpreter. 

Immigration Bond Release

In this section, we’ll briefly go over how the immigration bond process typically works. However, if you want a more in-depth resource, make sure to check out our full guide here.

First off, you might not even be allowed on bond release. If they believe there’s a risk you’ll miss your immigration hearing, or that you’re a danger to the community, then you won’t be allowed.

If you are allowed bond, then the ICE officer will typically assign the amount by 2:00 pm on the day when you arrive at the facility. The lowest bonds are typically set around $1,500.

However, in some cases, they can be as high as $25,000. If you aren’t granted a bond, or the bond amount is set too high, you have the right to ask an immigration judge to reconsider.

Know that this can take some time. Once you attend the immigration court hearing, then your bond money will be returned to you. If you need help navigating your court hearing, make sure to check out this online resource

Tips For When You or a Loved One Is Arrested

Remember that when you’re arrested, you have the right to remain silent. Indeed, it’s almost always recommended. Don’t let ICE agents convince you otherwise — some may try to convince you that staying silent is a sign that you’re guilty.

Instead, ask to talk to a lawyer. The government will not provide you with a lawyer, but you can hire one privately. If you can’t afford an immigration lawyer, some groups provide free or low-cost legal advice.

Sadly, there are very few circumstances where immigration agents and judges can be helpful. By this, we mean that they often purposely withhold information or don’t fully explain your options.

So, be wary of anything they tell you. Wait until your lawyer is present to discover what type of situation you’re looking at and what your options are.

When you meet with your lawyer tell them every bit of information, even if it doesn’t feel relevant. That way, they get the full picture and can advise you accordingly. 

Need Help With Immigration Bonds? Contact Amistad Bail and Immigration Bonds

We hope this article helped you learn what to do after an unauthorized immigrant gets arrested. After you locate your loved one, the most important thing is to find a bail bond service that you can trust.

If you live in the Raleigh, NC Triangle area, then look no further than Amistad Bail and Immigration Bonds. We have decades of experience in the field, which has helped us develop strategies to get your loved ones out as soon as possible.

So, contact us today to get the help with immigration bonds that you need — we’re open 24/7.