Guest post by Trina Realmuto of The National Immigration Project (supporter and steering committee member of the Bond Fund):
The National Immigration Project hears about many problems with the detention system, including problems about bond hearings. One scenario that we often hear about is as follows: a request for a bond hearing is filed with the immigration court where the person is detained, but before the hearing is held, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) moves the person to a new detention facility. As a result, the bond hearing is cancelled because the immigration judge believes he or she does not have the authority to hold the hearing. The detainee then is forced to wait until a new bond hearing is scheduled in their new place of detention. If the detainee is represented, the representative may not be able to travel to the new place of detention to be present for the bond hearing.
Here is a classic example of what we hear has been happening. Immigration officials arrest and take Susan into custody in Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, Susan’s family hires an attorney in Charlotte and that attorney files a request for a bond hearing with the immigration court in Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon. The hearing is set for Friday morning. On Thursday afternoon, ICE moves Susan to a new detention facility in Georgia. At the hearing on Friday, the immigration judge tells Susan’s lawyer and her family that he has no power to decide whether Susan should be released on bond because Susan is no longer detained in North Carolina. Susan, or her representative, again must request a bond hearing in Georgia. The new hearing is scheduled for the following Thursday. At that hearing, Susan is released on bond. Significantly, Susan spent a total of fourteen days in detention, including six extra days waiting for her bond hearing and must now travel back to her family in North Carolina.
We wrote the practice advisory, “Immigration Court Jurisdiction to Conduct Bond Hearings Regardless Whether DHS Transfers Respondent After the Hearing Request is Filed” (PDF), model brief and sample letters to help expedite bond hearing for legal representatives and detainees. The sample letters can be used to request a bond hearing. The model brief explains why immigration judges have the authority conduct bond hearings even if the detainee has been transferred to a new facility. We hope that legal representative and detainees can use these materials to convince immigration judges to conduct their bond hearings promptly and that ICE will consider the fact that a bond hearing request has been filed and/or a bond hearing has been scheduled before deciding to transfer someone.
I’ve worked in this field for many years and have felt frustrated by this far-too-frequent situation faced by people in detention. This advisory is one step in changing this unjust process.