What to do if you are detained by ICE

This week, in my column in La OpiniónI give some very important recommendations for every undocumented person living in the U.S. This is my column:

It is very encouraging that after the presidential election, which demonstrated the political power of Latinos in this country, there is again talk of needed immigration reform to address the plight of millions of undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, it may be a long time before reform is passed.

We have seen more than 1.5 million undocumented immigrants deported during President Obama's administration. Although Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been ordered to use prosecutorial discretion, prioritizing the deportation of undocumented immigrants with serious criminal histories, the reality is that any undocumented immigrant who is detained can be removed from the country.

Therefore, you should know what to do if you or a family member is detained by ICE: stay calm, remain quiet, and ask to speak to an attorney. Notaries or immigration consultants cannot provide legal advice.

Do not sign anything without first talking to a lawyer. Signing documents without understanding their contents could hurt your chances of staying in the country.

Generally, ICE has 48 hours to decide whether to place a detainee in immigration proceedings before a judge, remand them into custody, or release them on bond or parole. After 72 hours, ICE must serve what is called a "Notice to Appear" - a notice to appear before an immigration judge, detailing information about your hearing.

The judge can review ICE's decisions. The judge takes into account the person's criminal and immigration history, whether the person is a danger to the community, and whether the judge believes the person may flee without appearing for future hearings. If the judge grants a bond, it cannot be less than $1500.

It is important to be prepared in case you are detained. Make sure a family member or trusted person has access to key documents and knows the following information:

The detainee's full name, other names used, date of birth, alien registration number known as an "A" number, if he or she has one, and how and when he or she entered the United States.

If you have children, arrange in advance who can care for them if you are detained.

To find out where a person is detained, you can use the locator on the Internet. They will only find people in ICE custody, or who have been released from custody within 60 days. The search engine does not have access to records of persons under the age of 18.