Step One: Is The Person in Immigration Custody?
It is very common in the Atlanta Metro-area to go to a county jail for a minor offense and end up with an "immigration hold." This means that ICE is planning to pick up this person once they are due to be released by the county jail. However, ICE will not pick this person up until the jail has no independent reason to keep him. Examples: A person is arrested for driving without a license and sentenced to 24 hours in jail. When the 24 hours are up, the jail would ordinarily let the person go. Similarly, no matter what the charge, if the county sets a bond, paying that county bond would ordinarily mean that the person could leave the county jail. In both these cases, if there is an immigration hold, the person will not be allowed to leave, and ICE will come pick him or her up from the jail. Until this happens, the person is still in county custody and ICE can't address the question of bond. LESSON: It is impossible to pay an immigration bond until the person is in ICE custody.
Step Two: Has a Bond Been Set?
In the Atlanta-metro area, when ICE picks a person up from a county jail, they will transport them to the ICE district headquarters at 180 Spring St. SW, Atlanta, GA 30303. At this location, a person will be processed into ICE's system (photographed, fingerprinted, record check, etc.). ICE will ask the person about their circumstances. The critical information includes items like: How did the person enter the US? How long has the person been here? Does the person have family here? Is this person a caregiver for any vulnerable US citizens? Is the person eligible for a visa or a green card or citizenship? Does the person have a criminal record? Depending on the answers, ICE will: let the person go without having to pay a bond; decide that the person cannot be released; or set a bond. The person will typically be permitted to call someone to tell them if he or she has a bond. To ask ICE if a bond has been set, call 404-893-1210. Be sure to have the person's alien number ready.
Step Three: Do You Need to Ask an Immigration Judge to "Redetermine" the Bond Decision?
The decision by ICE to either release a person, hold a person with no bond, or to set a bond amount, is called a custody determination or bond decision. If you believe that ICE has made the wrong decision, you can ask an Immigration Judge ("IJ") to "redetermine" the bond amount. This is most obvious where ICE has denied any bond. But an IJ can also lower a bond amount if you can convince him or her the amount is too high. In this context, though, be aware that the IJ does not have to change the bond at all, and can even raise the bond. In Atlanta, the IJ often requires proof that a person has a way to legally stay in this country as a prerequisite to granting any bond. As a result, in most cases in Atlanta, if a person is given a $5,000 bond, or is given a $10,000 bond because of a criminal record, it is unlikely that an IJ would lower the bond. If you are considering asking an IJ to redetermine a bond, you should consult with an AILA attorney first.
Step Four: Can You Pay the Bond or Do You Need a Bondsman or Bonding Company?
The bond issued in the situation I am describing is called an "appearance" bond. The purpose of the bond is to ensure that the person comes to all required appointments or hearings. If the person does not appear when required or breaks some other condition, the bond will be forfeited. An individual posting an immigration bond must post the entire amount. So if it is a $5,000 bond, you must pay $5,000. If you cannot afford this, you can hire a bonding company. This company will post the bond if you pay 10-20 percent as well as various fees. A bonding company might also demand collateral, such as a lien on real estate. The MAJOR difference is that an individual who pays the bond in whole will get it ALL back (unless the bond is breached) with interest. When you pay a bonding company you will not get any money back. Also note: an individual must be either a lawful permanent resident or citizen to pay the bond directly.
Step Five: Actually Paying the Bond
If you have hired a bonding company you can usually give them all the information they need by phone and fax. The bonding company will then work directly with ICE. If you are going to pay the bond yourself, you need to get either money orders or a cashier's check. Make the money orders or check out to "Immigration and Customs Enforcement" (or you can leave the money orders blank till you are at the ICE office). Go to 180 Spring St, SW, Atlanta, GA 30303. Go up to the third floor and follow the signs to the bond window (like a secure bank teller's window). I would recommend that you go on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, because Tuesdays and Thursdays are very busy with other matters. No matter what day you go, expect to be there for 3-4 hours minimum. You must have the person's name and alien number. You will have to complete a long form with a lot of information about yourself (see below). Eventually, the bonding company or ICE will tell you everything is set.
Step Six (Final): Picking the Person Up
As you go through this process you will probably figure out where the person is physically. It is very rare for the person to be at the 180 Spring St. SW headquarters. Usually they will be in one of three locations: Etowah County Detention Center, 827 Forrest Ave, Gadsden, AL 35901 256-546-2825 Stewart Detention Center, 79 Holder Rd, Lumpkin, GA 31815 229-838-5000 Atlanta City Detention Center, 254 Peachtree St SW, Atlanta, GA 30303 404-865-8001 Once the bond has been paid you will need to either pick the person up at this location or work with the facility to make sure they have some form of transportation. A tip: If you do not have the person's alien number and ICE refuses to help you figure it out, call the facility the person is in. They can find the person by name and will have the alien number in their system. Remember, if you have any problems with any of these steps, many American Immigration Lawyer's Association ("AILA") attorneys in Atlanta can help you.