ICE Deportation is on the Rise in Georgia
The Trump Administration’s immigration enforcement program has called for Georgia county sheriff offices, the Georgia Department of Corrections, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (“ICE”) to partner and enforce the agreement through section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act enacted in 1996. Under this section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, local officials can be deputized to help ICE agents investigate, apprehend, and detain individuals identified for deportation.
Currently, there is an aggressive push for immigration enforcement in the State of Georgia. The Georgia counties of Cobb, Gwinnett, Hall, Lumpkin, Bartow, Floyd, and Whitfield all actively participate in the 287(g) immigration program signed in 2018. In 2017, ICE reportedly deported over 12,571 people from the Atlanta area. These numbers were higher than the previous fiscal year of 5,770 deportations. Once detained, undocumented persons are more likely to be deported and less likely to receive bond. Posting bond is carried out by ICE or the Atlanta area and the Stewart Detention Center immigration judges.
There are four major Immigration Detention centers in Georgia in four cities:
- Atlanta City Detention Center (Atlanta, Georgia)
- Irwin County Detention Center (Ocilla, Georgia)
- North Georgia Detention Center (Gainesville, Georgia)
- Stewart Detention Center (Lumpkin, Georgia)
- Folkston ICE Processing Center (East Folkston, Georgia)
Irwin County Detention Center and Stewart Detention Centers have the highest rate of deportation cases. ICE has an immigration detainment agreement with other counties in Georgia like Gwinnett County which has made 29,210 charges against undocumented immigrants since participating in the 287(g) program in 2009.
The Fourth Amendment says that undocumented immigrants have Constitutional rights, even when ICE agents are knocking at your door (figuratively). When this occurs, you should know what you’re entitled to under the law. Understand that under the Fifth Amendment of the American Constitution, immigrants can tell ICE agents that they will not speak to them, answer their questions, sign anything, or give them any type of documents. ICE agents should have a warrant signed by a judge in order to enter your home. Immediately contact an immigration attorney in Atlanta.
However, in order to prepare for a possible ICE arrest, there are some tips to keep yourself and your family prepared. If your background check includes an arrest for a crime, you could be placed into detention which means you will be gone for a while. When this occurs, how will family members, friends, and employers know how to find you? If you are at risk of being detained by ICE as an undocumented immigrant, you should prepare some vital personal information to help your family and friends prepare for your absence:
- Keep family names and their contact information.
- Write down employer contact information. In the absence of the undocumented person, the family can contact the employer for unpaid wages.
- Prepare information for someone to care for any children in the home. Include the school they go to. Work with the school in preparing a release form for that child or children to be released to your designated contact. If your child is a U.S. citizen, ensure that a spouse is identified as having parental rights.
- Write down your bank account information for easy access by the family. Before ICE arrives, work with your bank to put a family member’s name on your accounts. If you don’t have an account, leave a blank check so that your money can be withdrawn.
- Let the family or friends know how you would like them to handle your personal effects. To make it legal, write up a list and have it notarized.
- If you have an ICE deportation attorney, have their information available to friends and family so they can be notified.
Even as an undocumented immigrant, you have the right to take care of everything on this list. Be knowledgeable that the Trump Administration has released executive orders on state-wide enforcement whereby all unauthorized immigrants, no matter where you live, could be deported.
The Detainment and Deportation Process can Happen Suddenly and Last Months or Years
The Trump Administration is taking fast action on undocumented immigrants to deport them, especially if they have a criminal record. Deporting individuals can take months or years to conclude. Immigration Court proceedings can be complicated, as the removal process can be complicated. Individuals facing deportation should not go through this process without the aid of an experienced immigration lawyer. Immigration court hearings are handled like a trial.
Nationwide, there are more than 500,000 cases involving deportations, bond reviews, and asylum claims. To apply for a bond you can request a bond hearing where a judge will investigate your eligibility and determine if you are a flight risk or a risk to society.
In Georgia, proceedings in the Atlanta Immigration Court or the Stewart Immigration Court for removal are held before an immigration judge. Georgia’s Immigration Court proceedings must abide by the fair practices established by the Executive Office of Immigration Reviews Ethics and Professionalism Guide for Immigration Judges. An experienced immigration lawyer can help clients throughout the immigration process, including:
- Filing bond motions to release individuals from custody
- Visit clients in detention for interviews and information gathering
- Help with immigration-related paperwork, and
- Represent clients at various hearings
If you or a family member has been removed or deported, protecting your legal rights during the process, including the possibility to return, is better accomplished with the help of an immigration lawyer. A court-ordered deportation may result in taking years before someone can legally return to the U.S. – between 5 years and 20 years.
For deportations that are the result of criminal misconduct, there may a permanent ban on reentry to the United States. An immigration lawyer can help with the return process, by applying for a waiver on the immigrant’s behalf, in the form of a visa, green card, student visa, or a tourist visa sponsored by a family member or employer. One waiver, known as an I-212 form, does not require that an immigrant demonstrate that they have a relative who would suffer hardship if they were removed. The factors affecting an I-212 waiver include:
- The reason for deportation
- When were you deported
- How long you’d live in the U.S.
- Your respect for the law and your overall character
- Family responsibilities, and
- What are the hardship you and others would face if your re-entry was denied (I-601 USCIS waiver)
What Happens to Relatives Who are Not Deported?
Recent TV news shows Border Patrol agents separating immigrant children from their parents. Other immigrant parents are crying to U.S. magistrate judges to please deport them with their children. With immigration being such a polarizing issue, it’s difficult to assess the realities. In an effort to better understand what it’s like for the families of those who are deported, we spoke with a group of local immigration experts in Georgia. They all have hands-on experience working with families who have been affected by deportation.
We asked them all a single question, “What happens to families after a member (parent, sibling, spouse, etc.) is deported?”
Director of Legal Services, Georgia Asylum & Immigration Network (GAIN)
“One of the unfortunate – and often overlooked – consequences of increased immigration enforcement is the toll it takes on the families left behind. The trauma of being separated from a loved one, coupled with the fear, anxiety, and shame of an uncertain future, can have a severe long-term impact on a person’s emotional well-being.”
Supervising Immigration Attorney, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta
“Lots of different things happen to families when the state comes in and breaks them apart. Mainly though, people carry on. They live with the trauma associated with deportations and navigate the difficulties that arise. When men are deported, it’s women and their children who carry the burden, many of whom are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, etc. Women continue to raise their children to give them better opportunities and they are also tasked with supporting their extended families in the U.S. and abroad. Children grow up living with the immense trauma as a result of seeing their family members taken by ICE and the immigration court. But I’ve also seen young people, as young as eight-years-old, rise as activists. They have a better understanding of how legal and political systems work than most people because they experienced firsthand how unjust and hostile these systems are to them and families like theirs. Deportation is a life-sentence and affects everyone in the family – a weight they carry throughout their lives.”
Children and parents are very often deported years apart. In many cases, children have been placed in foster care. In other cases, after waiting for an immigration court to make a determination, some children, due to aging, are deported back to their native country.
The State of Georgia has many organizations to support families and undocumented persons facing deportation. For example, El Refugio is a hospitality house that is down the road from the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. El Refugio helps the family members of detainees with meals, a place to stay, comfort, allowing family members to visit detained male family members.
There are national organizations which have local state chapters that represent immigrants and their families, like the United We Dream Network (UWDN). UWDN supports immigrant youths, DREAMers, and their families.
The medical industry notes that when one family member is deported but others must remain behind, it creates a toxic health environment. When heads of a family (mother and/or father) are removed from the home, what may remain is daily depression, fear, sadness, anxiety, and trauma. The economic stability for the family is affected.
Deportation has been highlighted by the American Psychological Association as causing mental health problems for both citizen-children and their parents, who may be non-residents. “In these “mixed-status families,” citizen-children have all of the experiences of being one unit that shares bloodlines, lineage, affection, and interdependence. What they don’t share is a common legal status, which can be a source of psychological anguish and problems for citizen-children.”
There is a particularly high-risk of negative psychological consequences when it’s a mother and child who have been separated. “Migration-related family separation, particularly between mother and child, has negative psychological impacts on both children and parents that persist even after reunification (Gindling & Poggio, 2009).”
When family members are left behind they initially become stagnant. Kids don’t want to go to school or leave the house and the family can’t plan for a future because they don’t see one. It literally becomes a take one day at a time existence. “Parents’ legal vulnerability, detention, and deportation are strongly associated with depression, anxiety, fears of separation, social isolation, self-stigma, aggression, withdrawal and negative academic consequences among children (Brabeck & Xu, 2010; Chavez et al., 2012; Delva et al., 2013; Dreby, 2012; Gonzales, Suárez-Orozco & Dedios-Sanguineti, 2013). Allen, Cisneros, and Tellez (2013) showed that citizen-children were significantly more likely to show signs of depression, anxiety, aggression and conduct problems than children whose parents were not deported or whose parents were in the process of deportation.”
Deportation of family members also extends into the community where churches get involved, mental health centers or clinics become inundated, and businesses often lose productive employees.
How to Prepare for a Possible Detainment and The Preemptive Steps to be Taken
Many pro-bono lawyers and charities offer free advice to undocumented immigrants about what they should do to prepare for detainment or deportation. First, if possible, secure the experienced service of an immigration lawyer before you are detained and sent to any of the four detention centers in Georgia. When preparing for the possibility of deportation or detainment, Susan Cruz, an advocate working with organizations like Sin Fronteras, has suggested focusing on three steps:
- Choose someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf in the event of detainment or deportation;
- If you have minor children, create a safety plan in writing, designating a guardian for the children; and
- Gather copies (and originals) of important documents (such as identification, birth certifications, health insurance) and put in an accessible place that someone has access to.
A new Department of Homeland Security policy now allows ICE to investigate the immigration status of possible unaccompanied minor sponsors. When unaccompanied minors enter the U.S., the Office of Refugee Resettlement and its parent agency, the Department of Health and Humans Services takes charge of them. Unfortunately, they could wind up in foster care. To best prepare for any situation, undocumented persons should think about the following:
- Who can become your children’s caregiver
- What about your savings
- How rent will be paid
- Personal information about your children including any health issues, and
- Schooling for the children, etc.
It is suggested that parents prepare temporary legal documents detailing who will care for their children if one or both parents are detained or deported. A lawyer can help prepare a temporary guardianship petition to file with the courts, if necessary. Be prepared. The same process in preparing your children for detention or deportation applies to your personal finances and any other personal matter that needs attention if a single immigrant parent is detained for long periods of time.
- Write down information on your home, finances, and emergency contacts. Make sure this information is legally prepared and that you have identified authorized users, power of attorney representative, and/or beneficiaries to have access to your personal information.
- Update paperwork that identifies schools, doctors, lawyers, and employers. In case your are detained then deported, at least you will have peace of mind that you took the right steps to keep family safe and you less worried.
- Contact family members and immigration lawyers first. Make a spouse or a trusting family member your joint account holder in a name for utilities, bank accounts, credit cards, financial loans, mortgage papers, rental agreements, or any debts you have remaining. The paperwork is like a power of attorney agreement where your friend or family member left behind has full authority to make changes for anything in your name whether you are still in the U.S. or not.