ICE Holds / Detainers in Texas county jails

You may have found this page because your relative was arrested for a criminal offense, and is being held in a county jail in Texas (or any other state for that matter).  And when you tried to bond him out, you were told by a bondsman or the sheriff’s office that your relative has something in the system called an “ICE hold.”

Though this should be cause for concern, and good reason to contact an immigration attorney experienced in deportation defense, you shouldn’t assume that your relative will be deported, and that all is lost.  The point of this post is to give you some quick advice on what to do if your relative has an ICE hold.  Let’s start by discussing what exactly an ICE hold is.

What is an ICE hold or ICE detainer?

A hold placed by Immigration or Customs Enforcement is simply a request by ICE to a law enforcement agency, for it to continue detaining a person in its custody after his normal release date, so that ICE can take over custody.

It should be emphasized that ICE hold is simply a request, and it is up to the law enforcement agency to decide whether to comply with it.

By law, an ICE detainer lapses after 48 hours, excluding holidays and weekends, after the detainee is supposed to be released by the law enforcement agency.  So, a county jail is not allowed to hold the person for more than 48 hours after his release date.  If the county jail holds the person for longer than 48 hours, an attorney should consider requesting his release via a petition of habeas corpus.

The most important thing for a layperson to understand about ICE detainers is that they are not orders of deportation or removal.  I repeat: having an ICE hold does not mean that you will automatically be deported.  

Should I post bond for a person with an ICE hold?

In some cases, a person can be issued a bond amount by a county judge, even though there he has an ICE detainer.  Whether to post the bond is a very tough question that should be decided on a case-by-case basis with the help of a deportation lawyer.

Conventional wisdom suggests that you shouldn’t post bond, because you will lose your money.  Once the person is transferred to ICE custody, ICE may not let him go back for his criminal court hearings.  And if he doesn’t show up for criminal court, the bond money will be lost!

However, there may be good reason to post a criminal bond, and accelerate the person’s transfer to immigration detention.  For one, if the person bonds out of state custody, he likely will do so before his criminal case is resolved.  So while he may have been arrested for a crime, he will not have been convicted for it.  This is important because the outcome of the immigration case may turn on whether he has a criminal conviction already on his record.  In other word, bonding out of criminal detention will improve his chance of fighting deportation, because he will enter ICE custody with a cleaner record.  (It should be noted that if he is able to leave ICE custody, he may have to return to state custody because he has an outstanding warrant for failing to show up to criminal court.  That will have to be dealt with separately.)

Second, a person may be able to get out of ICE custody on a reasonably-sized immigration bond.  If so, it may make sense to bond out of criminal custody, and then seek an immigration bond from ICE or an immigration judge.  This requires a lot of educated guesswork, however, and our Firm recommends that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney before making any drastic decisions.

What should I do if my relative has an ICE hold on him?

Go ahead and contact a deportation or immigration lawyer.  Early intervention by an immigration lawyer — before your relative is transferred to immigration detention — can be critical.  For example, an immigration attorney can in some rare cases can negotiate with a county official to ignore the detainer.  (Recall that ICE detainers are optional for law enforcement agencies; they are not mandatory.)  In addition, if more than 48 hours elapse after your relative is supposed to be released from county jail, a lawyer can threaten to, or actually file, a lawsuit against the state for constitutional violations.  Also, an attorney can directly contact ICE and request that it lift a detainer if there is no real basis for deporting the person from the United States.  It is squarely within ICE’s prosecutorial discretion to cancel an ICE detainer.

Contact The Vinesh Patel Law Firm for help dealing with ICE holds

Our attorneys are ready to act quickly if your relative is in county jail in Texas and is subject to an ICE hold.  Early intervention is often the key to stopping deportation.  Don’t hesitate to call us at (855) 278-2943.

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