After months of detention Stewart Detainee released on bond
In late October 2015, a client of ours came into the office and informed us that her mother, father, and younger sister were detained in Texas. Her father, Mr. M, was separated from her mom and sister. In the middle of the night, ICE officers entered his cell at the detention center and informed Mr. M that he was being transferred. He was flown on a plane he perceived to be private to the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. For weeks his wife and daughters did not know where he was. Stewart Detention Center is located a few hours away from a large city. It regularly takes attorneys 3 hours to get there.
Once Mr. M’s daughter came in, our firm filed a motion to set bond and motion to consolidate with the Immigration Court in Stewart.
On November 25, 2015, the Immigration Judge denied Mr. M’s motion to set bond without stating a reason as to why he denied the motion. Our firm immediately decided to take the remainder of the case pro bono to help Mr. M and his family be reunified. Our team filed an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”). After we filed the appeal, the Judge wrote an opinion as to why he denied the motion for bond. The Judge stated the reason for denial was that Mr. M was a flight risk. On appeal, we submitted to the BIA overwhelming evidence that the Judge’s decision should be reversed as it was plainly inconsistent with BIA precedent and with current law. Mr. M met all of the factors for bond: (1) he is not a threat to national security; (2) he is not a bail risk; (3) he has no previous immigration offenses; (4) he is not a threat to the community; and (5) he has abundant family in the U.S. A three judge panel at the BIA held in our favor, stating, “In the instant case…we are persuaded that no bond whatsoever should be available to the respondent.” The BIA remanded for Judge Trimble to “set a reasonable bond for” Mr. M (emphasis added).
On April 5, after we filed a motion for bond redetermination, the prosecutor in Mr. M’s case requested the court to set $10,000 bond and Mr. M, through counsel, requested $1,500. The Judge, after commenting on the merits of his asylum case in a bond proceeding, ordered a bond of $35,000. Mr. M’s relatives and friends were able to piece together the $35,000 to bond him out of a place he called ‘hell on Earth.’ His case has been transferred out of Stewart Immigration Court.
On April 27, 2016, Mr. M visited the office as a free man. It was an emotional time for all of us involved in the case. Collectively we spent over 150 hours maneuvering a system at Stewart determined to keep immigrants in detention. According to Mr. M, detainees at Stewart are working 8 – 10 hour days for $1 – $4 a day; they are supposed to be divided into Red (people with previous serious convictions), Orange (previous low level conviction), and Blue (first time entrants, no criminal record), but are routinely allowed to mix and Red detainees assault Blue and Orange detainees; and there is little to no communication with their deportation officers.
Getting someone out of Stewart is not an easy task, but we’re elated that Mr. M is out and able to proceed with his asylum claim at court that allows him to be with his wife, daughters, and grandchildren.
Eric R. Suarez, Immigration Law Clerk at The Law Office of Miguel Palmeiro.