What to do if you suspect ICE detained your loved one

It is a scary time when you cannot locate a loved one. Here are some steps to follow when you believe that your friend or family member was arrested by ICE.

The pace of deportations has increased over recent years to almost 400,000 per year. This is double the rate of ten years ago. While there has been discussion of immigration reform, no new federal law will likely pass this year.

This leaves many on edge for themselves and loved ones. An arrest for a minor offense could trigger an immigration case that stretches for years. What should you expect if Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) arrests your family member or a friend? Are there any defenses to deportation that may keep your loved one in the country?

You should always be prepared with the person's full name, date of birth, alien number ("A" number) if he or she has one, entry information, and home country consulate contact information. Knowing whether a prior deportation order, criminal charge or conviction exists is important. A power of attorney is also useful and allows another person to act on the detainee's behalf.

Locating your relative

The Online Detainee Locator System will allow you to search for a family member by "A" number and birth country. A name search is available, but the name needs to be an exact match. The search may show that your relative is "in custody" and it will list where. If a search comes back "detainee not found," your family member may be in the custody of local law enforcement.

Detention facilities have visiting hours, but also various restrictions. For example, federal detention centers complete background and immigration status checks on all visitors. An individual who does not have status needs to be careful or may be detained and/or subject to removal.

When is release on bond available?

Similar to the criminal courts, a first hearing at the immigration court will address possible release and conditions. ICE or the immigration judge may release an individual on bond and set a dollar amount. Release on personal recognizance is a promise you will attend future court dates and usually is only available on humanitarian reasons, such as caring for a small child.

Sometimes detention is mandatory and there is no bond. This is rare, but can be the case if the person faces serious criminal charges or was previously deported.

Supporting letters from family members, a religious institution or community can be ways to show that the person has community ties and is not a flight risk. You can pay the bond in full with a cashier's check or money order made out to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security." Another option is to pay through an authorized bail bond agent. You can get bond money back at the end of the case if the person has attended all court hearings and submitted the bond receipt to the local ICE office for refund.

Depending on the facts of your case, there may be various forms of relief available such as asylum or withholding of removal to name but a few. Voluntary departure may also be available and the best outcome. When a family member is placed on an immigration hold, speak with an experienced immigration attorney.

Keywords: ICE arrest, deportation defenses