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If you are not a United States citizen and you are arrested in the State of Texas, then things are already looking up if you’ve been arrested in Dallas County.

Why? Because the Dallas County Jail has a new program operated in conjunction with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whereby I.C.E. bonds can be set.This means that non-citizen inmates awaiting trial in Dallas County that thought they couldn’t bond out of jail may now be eligible to receive an immigration bond or to get an I.C.E. hold removed/lifted so they can bond out.

Here’s how.

The Double Whammy: Criminal Charges and Detained by Immigration

In Texas, when a state trooper or local police officer arrests someone and takes them into custody, that person is fingerprinted as part of the arrest process. The process is the same no matter the crime for which they may be charged: from DWI or unpaid traffic tickets to violent felonies like armed robbery or manslaughter.

This person is then placed behind bars and they will remain there until something happens to allow his or her release.

Their fingerprints are then run through state and federal databases. This happens promptly and routinely. When someone who is not a United States citizen has been arrested and fingerprinted by state or local authorities, federal officers may step into the process at the local jail seeking to “detain” that non-citizen. These federal officers are from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and they are charged with a mission “…to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration.”

Which means that I.C.E. agents swoop into Dallas and other places whenever someone crosses law enforcement’s path in some way and is not documented as being a citizen of the United States or someone with the federal okay to be in the country. It happens all the time.

When they become involved in Dallas criminal cases, it may be that the I.C.E. agents have found a criminal record related to the person who has been arrested; it may also be that the federal detainer is being filed simply because the federal government cannot confirm that the individual is within the United States legally under current immigration laws. In other words, this person may be innocent of any wrongdoing and be caught in the I.C.E. web while they are still reeling from being arrested by local or state authorities on a criminal charge.

What is an I.C.E. Hold?

When the federal government steps into the local or state arrest process to “detain” a person, this is called an “immigration hold” or “I.C.E. hold.” What happens is I.C.E. files an official document with the jail where the person has been taken notifying the jail officials that I.C.E. has an interest in this person and asks the jail officials to (1) let I.C.E. know in advance before the person is going to be released from the jail; and (2) if so, then to hold that person for a 48 hour window past the release date so I.C.E. has a chance to have his or her custody transfered to the federal authorities.

Once that I.C.E. documentation is filed, a completely different federal case begins for this non-citizen that is independent from the state or local case. There will be the criminal matter made the basis of the arrest, and separately, there will be federal immigration case.

This person now has two battles to fight and defend against: the criminal case under Texas law, and simultaneously, the immigration case under federal law. With them comes two custody issues: release from custody of local or state law enforcement and thereafter, release from I.C.E. custody.

Under the state criminal system, the individual has to battle for a state bond so he or she can be released from state custody pending trial and if that bond cannot be met, then the state system will hold them in jail while their case is pending. When I.C.E. becomes involved, the person has to battle a second time, arguing to the federal immigration judge that an immigration bond is warranted in their case. It is only if this second bond, the immigration bond, is also allowed (and posted) that they will be released to their families and allowed to be free while their two cases (criminal and immigration) proceed.

What is an Immigration Bond?

There are times when a person who is not a United States citizen and who has been arrested can be released not only from state or local custody but also from I.C.E. custody based upon their own personal recognizance; however, many non-citizens and illegal aliens have to pay an “immigration bond” before they can be be freed from I.C.E. custody. (You can read the full text of a I.C.E. immigration bond form here.)

Immigration bonds are not the same as standard bonds. They cost more. They have to be paid in full. It is mandatory under federal law that the bond be provided by someone who is an United States citizen or a permanent resident of the United States. And, since an immigration bond comes from a different authority, they can be demanded in addition to a local bond that may have been set by a local judge before I.C.E. became involved.

There’s more. There is not a one-size-fits-all immigration bonds; instead, there are different kinds of immigration bond amounts (just like not all state bonds are the same). The federal immigration judge will allow bond or not in the case, and he will decide the amount of the bond.

Your defense lawyer will argue many things to the immigration judge regarding not only your right to a bond but what would be a fair amount for the bond. From the federal judge’s perspective, there is the concern not only that will you appear at the future court appearances but that you present no danger to the community if you are released on bond. It will be the immigration judge’s final decision, after hearing arguments from the lawyers, as to whether an immigration bond will be offered and if so, the amount that this bond will be.

And not everyone who goes into I.C.E. custody will be eligible for an immigration bond. Some non-citizens may be prohibited from being bonded out on an immigration bond under the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.). These individuals must remain in federal custody under immigration removal / deportation proceedings are completed.

That’s right: some non-citizens are not eligible for immigration bonds and must remain in federal custody; others may have to face the challenge of meeting two bonds before being free from custody and back with his or her loved ones.

Legal Rights for People Who Are Not U.S. Citizens

Illegal aliens or non-citizens need to know that they need not fear immediate deportation just because I.C.E. has become involved in their situation and a I.C.E. Hold has been filed with the jail. Whether or not you are convicted of any crime and whether or not the federal government can or should deport you as an alien (non-citizen) are two defense fights for you to battle (with your defense attorney). These battles go forward at the same time. They can take months or years.

Your defense lawyer can fight immigration prosecution with the help of you and your family as you gather together things like your passport, your birth certificate, and other pertinent information. That defense lawyer will also be able to mount a criminal defense against the criminal charges resulting from your arrest with witnesses and documents relevant to the circumstances of the crime itself.

As for being released from custody, non-citizens need to know that it is possible to be released from jail and returned home to family while both the criminal charges are pending and the immigration case is moving forward. Experienced defense lawyers can help non-citizens and illegal aliens get bonded out of both the criminal case as well as I.C.E. custody.

Why The Dallas County Jail / I.C.E. Program Is Important

It is, however, very difficult if not almost impossible to get someone out of jail here in Texas if there is an I.C.E. hold on them. These folk must fight against prosecutors and judges who want to keep them behind bars because these individuals are not U.S. citizens, and they may not have any legal right whatsoever to be in the U.S. There is a big fear here in Texas (inflamed in part because we are so close to the international Mexico border) that the non-citizen, if released, will run away and never be seen again.

So I.C.E. holds are strong barriers to freedom for those who are in federal custody as non-citizens or aliens. However, things are different in Dallas County than the rest of the State of Texas — and perhaps the rest of the country, as well.

Why? Dallas County is the only county in the entire state that is currently participating in a program that has been implemented jointly by the Dallas County Jail; the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office; and the local field office of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Under the Dallas County I.C.E. Bond Program, I.C.E. bonds can be set in cases where they otherwise might not be available. For those illegal aliens who are facing criminal charges and defending themselves in a criminal trial here in Dallas County, they are now eligible to bond out of jail via an immigration bond or the release by I.C.E. of the I.C.E. hold.

The Dallas County Program is extremely important because it helps people who aren’t citizens of the United States that would otherwise be trapped for months in Dallas County Jail to post their state court bond and a federal immigration bond so they can get released from jail before they are called to trial.

How to Get Bonded Out of Dallas County Jail When You Are Not a U.S. Citizen

I am often called to get ICE holds lifted for people here in Dallas and around the State of Texas. For those who are lucky enough to find themselves incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail, then I can work with them on finalizing an application and an agreement where their I.C.E. hold is lifted and they are freed.

I have provided a sample of these Dallas County Jail Non-Citizen I.C.E. Hold Agreements online for free review in pdf format here:

It is possible to get an I.C.E. Hold lifted in Dallas County and it is not an onerous situation. For people arrested and taken to Dallas County Jail who are not U.S. Citizens, it’s worth contacting a Dallas criminal lawyer who knows how to work in this unique, local system to get their I.C.E. hold lifted.

Please note: the Dallas Field Office for Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is located at 8101 North Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75247, (214)424-7800. Usually, I.C.E. detainees who are no longer in state custody are processed at the Dallas Field Office, but they are not housed there. Instead, these detainees will be transported to the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, 111 Commerce Street, Dallas, Texas, 75207, and within the week, they will be moved a second time to either the Rolling Plains Detention Center in Haskell, Texas, or the Johnson County Detention Center in Cleburne, Texas.


About the Author: Michael Lowe is a Texas trial attorney practicing criminal defense law in the Dallas area for many years after first serving as a felony prosecutor for the Office of the District Attorney for Dallas County. He is Board Certified by the State Bar of Texas in Criminal Law. Mr. Lowe has tried to verdict over 150 criminal trials so far in the state and federal systems.

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