Help for People in Detention or Facing Deportation


If you or a family member has been detained or is facing deportation, you may be feeling frightened or overwhelmed. It is important to know that you are not alone and that resources are available to support you. The resources in this section provide an overview of what to expect if someone is detained or is experiencing a potential deportation, how to locate a loved one if they have been picked up or transferred to ICE, and more.

Please note that this information is general guidance, each case is unique and it is strongly recommended that you work with a lawyer as soon as possible under all of these circumstances to fully assess all legal options.

Locating a Detained Friend or Family Member

If someone you know or care about has been arrested or detained by ICE or transferred to an immigration detention center, locating them is the first step to supporting them. You can still find someone in detention even if they have not reached you by phone.

People arrested by ICE will first be processed by officers in an ICE Detention and Removal Office or a short‐term facility (such as a county jail) for up to 72 hours. Then, they may be transferred to another place for a longer‐term stay, often out‐of‐state. Some people may be transferred several times in the first few weeks. Transfers usually occur without notice to family members or lawyers.  

Here is how to find someone in immigration detention over the age of 18.

Here is how to find someone in immigration under the age of 18.

Here is what to expect if you visit someone in immigration detention.

Locating a Detained Friend or Family If ICE is Withholding Information

Here is what you can do if ICE‐DRO will not release the information of the person you are searching for.

  • Get a specific reason for the refusal.    
  • Explain your role (i.e. community organizer, family member etc) in the process.   
  • Explain that you are serving as a translator for a family member who cannot speak English (if that is true).
  • Ask to speak to a supervisory deportation officer or the ICE Field Office Director (the person who runs ICE Detention and Removal in your area).
  • If there is still not a response, you can try the consulate from the possible detainee’s country of origin.

Finding a Trusted Lawyer

If you are undocumented or have questions about your immigration status, you should immediately seek out an immigration attorney or a DOJ-accredited representative to represent and advise you. Immigration law is complicated, and an attorney can help you understand if you qualify for existing legal pathways, or if you should set up legal guardians for your children in case anything happens. It is estimated that 1.2 million undocumented people may be eligible for some form of immigration relief, so seek counsel.

Find more resources and materials on finding a trusted lawyer here. 

An Overview of The Deportation Process

Though we hope you never have to experience this first hand, if you are anticipating a potential detention, undergoing deportation, or have received removal orders, it is important to learn and be prepared with an understanding of institutions and tactics available to defend your case. This is a general overview of what to expect in a deportation process. This may not reflect all experiences, as each case is unique. It is strongly recommended that anyone experiencing detention work with an immigration lawyer.

Go to page 24 of this resource for an overview of the detention and deportation process. 

Removal Orders

If you or someone you know has been arrested by ICE, submitted a USCIS application that has been rejected, or filed for asylum, their claim for deportation relief will be determined by an immigration judge within the Executive Office of Immigration Review.

A removal proceeding is the  formal legal hearing in which an immigration judge makes a decision about your immigration status. Even if the judge delivers an unfavorable ruling, you may still qualify for another type of deportation relief. If you or someone you know is undergoing removal proceedings, it is critical that you find a lawyer immediately to assess the individual  case and see if there are other forms of relief available.

Immigration removal orders can come in two forms:

  1. As a part of a removal proceedings, a notice to appear in front of an immigration judge is mailed or issued by an immigration agent. The notice will list a reason for your removal. A removal order is only issued once a decision is issued by an immigration judge at a hearing.
  2. If you have a notice to appear, and do not attend the scheduled immigration hearing, the judge can still issue a removal order because of your absence.

If you reserve the right to appeal, you get a 30-day stay of deportation while you file your appeal.

To figure out if you qualify for an appeal or a way to adjust your status talk to a lawyer immediately. Find more resources and materials on finding a trusted lawyer here. 

The Administration’s Executive Orders from January 2017 directs the Department of Homeland Security to dramatically expand the use of “expedited removal” which empowers low-level immigration officers to quickly deport certain noncitizens who are undocumented or have committed fraud or misrepresentation. Examples of fraud or misrepresentation are:

  • Document fraud, also known as identity fraud, is the manufacturing, counterfeiting, alteration, sale, and/or use of identity documents and other fraudulent documents to circumvent immigration laws or for other criminal activity.
  • Benefit fraud is the willful misrepresentation of a material fact on a petition or application to gain an immigration benefit.

Once an “expedited removal” is issued to a non-U.S. citizen they can be deported without any of the due-process protections granted to most other people—such as the right to an attorney and to a hearing before a judge. Given the speed at which the process takes place, there is rarely an opportunity to collect evidence or consult with an attorney, family member, or friend before the decision is made. If someone you know is experiencing an expedited removal do not panic and remember to act quickly to connect with a lawyer.

Contact a lawyer immediately if you think an expedited removal has been issued to someone you know.

Leveraging Your Consulate

If you are having issues finding your loved one or someone you suspect has been placed in immigration custody through USCIS and cannot locate them, you may reach out to that person’s consulate. Consular officers must protect their nationals. Consulates are required by law to be notified when one of their nationals is detained, and should be able to help you locate your loved one or friend. Look up country consulates here. 

Asking for a Bond

Many non-citizens in immigration detention are eligible for bond, unless they are subject to mandatory detention and thus “ineligible for bond.” If you are in immigration detention awaiting removal proceedings, you may request a bond hearing from the immigration judge either orally during your removal proceeding or in writing through a written motion. You can make an oral request for a bond hearing at your first scheduled court appearance, often referred to as your  Master Calendar Hearing. If, however, you are in detention for longer than a few days without receiving a notice of a hearing, you can make a written request for a bond hearing.

  • Bond is an amount of money that you, a relative or a friend may pay to the court in order to be released from detention, and which is refunded if you attend all scheduled court hearings and comply with the judge’s ultimate order. If you miss a court hearing, you forfeit the money.
  • Making bond can enable the release of a detained individual back to their family while they await a court date.
  • It is important to ask ICE if they have posted bond for a detained individual. If they have, try to pay it. If they have not, ask if that is because the individual is “ineligible for bond” or simply because the amount hasn’t been determined. If someone is ineligible, it is unlikely a judge will grant bond. However, if the amount just hasn’t been set yet, press them to determine the amount as soon as possible, so that you can pay the amount and arrange for the individual’s release. Sometimes it helps to explain why it is important that somebody be released from detention. For example, is somebody has a child, it is important that they be given the opportunity to return home to care for that child.
  • Every detainee is entitled to a “bond hearing,” a hearing with an immigration judge to determine the bond amount. If the initial bond amount provided by ICE seems too high, or if ICE claims you are ineligible for bond but you believe that is incorrect, you or your attorney can request a bond hearing to appeal and request a lower amount. However, the judge can also raise the amount of bond during the hearing if new, unflattering information comes to light, so be cautious.
  • If you are subject to mandatory detention, you are “ineligible for bond.” Often, this is because the detained individual has a criminal record. If you do not have a criminal record, you have a better chance of being granted a bond.
  • To pay bond on behalf of a detained individual, the individual making the payment must have legal status in the U.S. and provide a photo ID.
  • Payment should be made to the local ICE office via a cashier’s check made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. They will not accept cash or a personal check. The person paying the bond should bring their own Social Security card and photo ID, as well as the name, date of birth, and A# of the detained person.

Find a lawyer to review the details of your or a loved one’s  case to determine if a bond is attainable. Find more resources and materials on finding a trusted lawyer here. 

Contacting Your Member of Congress

If a person’s case is very compelling, or you feel that there is nothing to lose, supportive elected officials and journalists can be instrumental in stopping deportations. Members of Congress should contact the ICE Field Officer Director directly to raise concerns around a deportation.

Post-Deportation Resources

Even after a loved one is deported to their country of origin, there are still ways for you to support and care for them. It is critical that the deported person and their family members continue to receive financial and community support.


  1. Start a personal fundraising page to the support your family member or friend who has been deported, for the family that is left behind, or to cover ongoing legal fees.
  2. Gather a list of in-country resources in country for your loved one. Here is a list of resources by  country of origin:
    1. Mexico
    2. Guatemala
    3. El Salvador
    4. Cambodia
    5. Haiti 
    6. Jamaica 
  3. Be emotionally supportive and provide access to emotional and spiritual resources. Find more resources and materials on emotional and mental health here. 

Mental Health: Finding Emotional & Spiritual Support

If you or someone you know is experiencing a deportation process, has been detained, or has removal orders, it can be emotionally overwhelming. If you are looking for emotional or spiritual support there are a list of people and places that can support you. It is critical that throughout the process you receive the emotional and spiritual support you need to confront the experience with the strength and attention it deserves. Find more resources and materials on emotional and mental health here. 

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