I was in immigration court yesterday for a detained client. The client has 2 misdemeanor drug convictions. She has been on probation for the last year. A couple of weeks ago, ICE detained her when she reported for probation and now she is facing deportation because of her misdemeanor convictions. Because she has a conviction for a controlled substance offense, she is subject to mandatory detention. By law, she cannot be released on bond. As a result of changes to the immigration law in 1996, many convictions result in people being placed in removal proceedings not being eligible for bond. This is called mandatory detention.
To me, a case like this demonstrates how ridiculous mandatory detention is. Her 2 convictions are for misdemeanors. She’s not a danger to anyone and she’s not a flight risk. She’s eligible for cancellation of removal. Since she’s eligible for relief from deportation, it’s in her best interest to appear for immigration court. Most of all, she has been on probation for the last year and was fully complying with her probation! However, due to mandatory detention, she will be detained by ICE for the duration of her case.
I hear lots of talk about the immigration reform, such as amnesty and the DREAM Act. Unfortunately, I don’t hear about immigration reform regarding mandatory detention. I think that mandatory detention should be limited to cases where individuals are ineligible for relief from removal. If someone is eligible for relief from removal, they should have the opportunity to have a hearing on bond to demonstrate why they should be released. If you are eligible for relief, you should have the opportunity to fight your case from home, rather than an ICE detention facility. Just having a bond hearing doesn’t mean that someone will be released. If they are a danger to the community or a flight risk, an immigration judge does not have to grant the individual bond. The current system that prevents immigration judges from considering bond for detained people in removal proceedings with almost any criminal history is wrong and should be changed.