Tips for when your loved one is detained.
(Disclaimer: My experience mostly pertains to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. Some of this will apply to other detention centers, some will not. Please consult a lawyer when making legal decisions. The following information can be found at: http://www.logansdad.org/your-loved-one-is-detained-read-this-now.php)
1. Tell them not to sign the papers!- Advise your loved one NOT to sign any deportation papers. It is more difficult to fight the case if they sign them. They will be pressured and possibly threatened but they do not have to sign or talk about their immigration status. Advise them to tell the officers they will not talk or sign papers until they speak to their lawyer.
2. Representation- Find a good immigration lawyer. They should specialize in detention and deportation law. Many lawyers will give you a free consultation. If you can get a recommendation for a fair lawyer, do it. There are many stories out there about immigration lawyers that have taken money and done nothing. Be careful who you hire. If you can not hire a lawyer because of financial reasons, the detainee can represent him or herself or attempt to find a pro bono lawyer. Fogle Law Firm represents Pedro in his case: www.foglelaw.com
3. Location- If they are currently in a city or county jail, they will most likely moved many times and eventually end up in an immigration detention center. Find out your loved one’s A number, commissary number, address at the immigration detention center (including their bed number) and their ICE officer’s name. If you do not know the location of your loved one, you can sometimes find their location at: https://locator.ice.gov/odls/homePage.do NOTE: This detainee locator does not always work.
4. Communication- For your sanity and the detainee’s sanity, write letters. Getting mail in the detention center is a big deal and means a lot. In Stewart, they can receive photos, letters, drawings (nothing with glue or stickers), and soft back books (Only sent from a publisher or internet company like amazon.com. They CANNOT receive books from a person directly.) To send mail (or send books THROUGH amazon.com or other internet publishers) to Stewart Detention Center, here is the address:
Detainee's bed number
PO Box 248
Lumpkin, GA 31815
5. Phone- If your loved one is fighting their case, the cheapest way for them to communicate with you by phone is for you to change your cell phone number to the area code in which the detention center is located. For Stewart, it is 229. The detainee can then buy phone cards in the detention center to call. Another option is that you can open a collect phone account from the company that works with the detention center. It varies with each detention center. For Stewart, the phone company is called Securus (formerly Evercom). Their website is securustech.net. Collect accounts are cheaper if you have a local area code (local to the detention center). If you keep your number and live far from the detention center, it will be more expensive.
If you do not want to change your area code, you can get a Skype number (with an area code where the detention center is located) at skype.com and then forward the number to your cell phone number or home phone. This can be complicated for those with limited computer skills but very possible. With this option, the detainee must use the phone cards bought inside the detention center.
6. Sending money- At Stewart, you can send money by money order but you MUST send it to this special address:
CCA Inmate Trust
(Inmate Last Name, Inmate First Name / Inmate CCA Commissary #)
P.O. Box 933488
Atlanta, GA 31193-3488
The easiest way to send money is by Western Union. You can send it online or in person at Western Union locations. Here are the directions for filling out the Western Union form: http://www.correctionscorp.com/static/facility/money_transfer/STWRT_Correctional_Money_Instructions.pdf
7. Visiting- At Stewart, the detainee can only receive one visit per week for one hour. This does not include lawyer visits. The week ends on Saturday and starts on Sunday, so you can visit Saturday and Sunday because they are two separate weeks. To visit, you must arrive before 3pm and have a valid government issued ID. Arriving 15 minutes before visitation hours (8:45am) is advised to lessen waiting time. The detainee can file a form to get a longer visit if you drive or fly a long distance but usually if the lobby is busy you will not receive a longer visit. Weekdays are usually less busy for visitation. Their website, where some of their policies are published is: http://www.cca.com/facility/stewart-detention-center/
8. What to bring- The only thing you can bring for the detainees are, money (only on weekdays) and a carry-on sized suitcase (on any visit day). To bring the small suitcase, the detainee must fill out the appropriate paperwork and obtain preapproval from the ICE officer. To receive approval, detainee must file appropriate paperwork. The items that are allowed inside the suitcase are 3 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of socks, 1 pair of shoes, 1 coat, 3 shirts, 3 undershirts, 3 pairs of underwear and 1 sweater. The bag and its contents must weigh less than 45 lbs and be equal to or smaller than 22x14x9 inches.
9. Where to stay- If you are going to visit Stewart Detention Center, El Refugio is a hospitality house in Lumpkin, GA that provides free meals, lodging and comfort on Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers will also visit detainees when their loved ones cannot visit. The volunteers are bilingual in English and Spanish. Contact El Refugio at 229-234-9022 and learn more on their website elrefugiostewart.org. Otherwise, the closest motel is Supervalue Inn, in Richland. It is called Supervalue Inn.
11. Talking to your children- It is important to talk to your children about what is happening. You do not need to share every detail but assure them that they are safe and that their family member is safe and that you are all working hard to bring the family member home. Seek a therapist's assistance if you feel you need help talking to your children.
12. Find out the hearing dates- You can call 1-800-898-7180. This is the INS court date phone line. Have the detainee’s A# ready to enter. This is the fastest way and instead of calling your lawyer to get information, you can call this number and find out most court dates with the exception of bond hearing dates.
13. Fighting the case- To make changes in the system, we must fight these cases but it is important to know, it can be a very long frustrating process. Be prepared. Court dates can get cancelled and rescheduled. When court dates happen, parties involved may not be prepared or documents may be misplaced. Find support and be supportive of your loved one. Send mail, send money (if you can), and be understanding of their feelings. Also, encourage the detainee to watch and listen to the orientation video inside the detention center. It contains valuable information. Make sure your loved one gets to know their ICE officer, ICE supervisor, CCA unit manager and CCA case manager. They can help the detainees. It is important to be respectful and friendly, even when it is hard at times. Encourage your loved one to stay active mentally and physically by reading, using recreation time and interacting with others. Their emotions will be up and down. The immigration detention centers are lonely, sad, and degrading places. Remember to be compassionate and try not to depend only on them for your emotional well-being. Part of that process is making sure you take care of yourself by finding support and using resources that are available.
14. Bonds- Consult your lawyer about how and where to pay for the immigration bond. You may lose your money if you pay a local jail bond. Make sure it is an immigration bond. These are different types of bonds it is important to know the difference.
15. Take Action- Taking action can help you and your loved ones feel better. Contact your representatives and congresspeople to tell them how you feel about immigration reform. Sign petitions and write letters that are positive. Reform Immigration for America (http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org) and www.change.org have updates and daily actions you can take.
16. More information:
This is a very comprhensive document about everything you need to know legally when your loved one has been detained, especially in NC, although there is alot of good info that applies to other states too. It is written by NC Immigrant Justice Project:
Here is some other important information about being confronted by police or ICE agents:
Know your rights: