For someone living in the United States with lawful status, it can be a shock to get a phone call from a relative who attempted to cross the border into the U.S. without documents—and got caught, by U.S. immigration authorities. The first question they are likely to ask is whether you'd be willing and able to pay a bail bond, so as to bring about a release from jail. At that point, you might be wondering whether it's wise to post a bail or bond for the person; and if so, whether you will be able to get the money back someday.
Many non-citizens in immigration detention are eligible for immigration bond—that is, to have a sum of money put up on their behalf that will be returned if they show up for all their court and other dates with U.S. immigration authorities.
Not everyone is eligible, though. Some non-citizens are subject to mandatory detention and thus cannot get out on bond. This mostly includes people with criminal records.
An initial bond amount will be set by the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) District Director. The minimum is $1,500.
How high it's set beyond that amount will depend on various factors in your relative's case. ICE will consider, for example, the length of time your relative has lived in the United States, any family ties in the U.S., employment history, criminal record, and history of immigration violations.
For more information on what you can do to help your detained family member, read Immigration 101: Information for Detainee's Family and Friends.
After ICE sets the initial bond amount, your relative can request that an Immigration Judge (IJ) lower the amount. Such a request can be made in writing or orally. Some IJs will conduct a bond hearing at the same time and date as the initial Master Calendar hearing.
It is best, however, to file what's known as a "Motion for Bond Redetermination" and request a separate hearing during which the judge will decide on the bond issue alone. Such a motion should simply state the factors warranting a bond decrease.
It's also appropriate for your family member to submit evidence in support of his or her request, such as proof of legally present family ties or steady employment, even without authorization. For information on how to file motions with the immigration court, see the EOIR Practice Manual.
The judge will then make a final bond determination. This amount cannot change unless the circumstances related to the noncitizen's detention change. For instance, if one factor the IJ used to make the bond determination was a pending criminal matter that has since been resolved favorably to the detained family member, you can ask that the bond be lowered based on the changed circumstance.
Once the IJ has made a final bond determination, the bond can be paid by any person who is in the United States lawfully—a friend, relative or anyone else. That payment should be made at the local ICE office.
Take proof of your legal status, your original Social Security card, and a photo identification document to the ICE office. Also be certain to have the name, date of birth, and alien registration number (A#) for the person detained. The bond cannot be paid by cash or personal check, but only cashier's check payable to Department of Homeland Security.
In order to get the bond back, you must hold onto the original document that you signed at the local ICE office when you paid the bond. In addition, your detained family member must have complied with the immigration judge's order. This is the case whether your detained family member is ordered removed or receives a grant of relief. Be sure your relative understands that your money is on the line. If he or she misses a hearing, for example, or tries to flee the proceedings, you will forfeit the entire sum.