Five Ways to Prepare for Immigration Court if You’re Undocumented and You Get Arrested – You Never Know When It Might Happen to You!
No one ever plans to get arrested, so you need to be prepared if you are undocumented and find yourself arrested for Driving Without a License or for any other reason. Knowing that it’s a potential risk every day that you get into your car, you need to know what you can do to prepare for the worst case scenario! You can do very little once you’re inside a local jail cell or moved to a detention center, so here are the five things I would suggest doing now that will also help your court case in the long run:
First – make sure that you and your family members have the contact information for a reliable and knowledgeable immigration attorney that you can reach quickly – every single day we receive emergency phone calls and do emergency consultations because families must act fast when their loved ones are detained. You can’t afford to waste time looking for an attorney you can trust. It’s also important that clients are advised correctly from the beginning as to when/when not to post a local bond, when to hire a criminal attorney or when to pay the local bond right away. Also, I see far too many families who throw away money in the wrong places before they finally get to a reputable attorney who can actually help them.
Second – If you have ever had any arrests, charges or convictions at any time EVER, please make sure that you give your attorney ALL of this information. It can really hurt your case if you fail to tell your attorney your complete criminal history because an arrest happened a long time ago and you thought it didn’t matter or because it was a misdemeanor and you didn’t serve jail time. They ALWAYS matter. Please don’t make this decision yourself. Tell your attorney everything, so we know what the government knows. That is the only way we can truly help!
Third – keep a folder at home of every single immigration document, application, receipt, or anything else you might have. If you ever mail anything to immigration on your own before hiring an attorney, make sure that you keep a copy of what you submit, and try to send everything using a tracking number, so you can prove it if you are ever required. This also means that this folder should be kept in a safe place where it won’t get lost, and you should make sure that your family members know the whereabouts of this folder, so they can get to it easily if you are detained.
Fourth – the vast majority of the applications in immigration court require you to show that you have been present in the United States for at least the last ten years. Filing for a bond before the immigration court often times also has this requirement. So, take some time to start going through all of the documents in your home and make a file that helps to prove your presence for at least the last ten years, if not longer. I don’t mean just one document – ideally, you will want to have documents that cover at least every couple of months of each year. You want to have as few gaps in time as possible, especially if you ever left the U.S. briefly and returned. These documents should include anything that has your name and a date – lease agreements, utility bills, cell phone, tax returns with transcripts from the IRS, W-2s, mortgage statements, insurance policies, bank records, etc. These documents can be impossible to obtain if you have thrown them away, or if you are detained and no one else knows their whereabouts. Also, be sure to hold onto copies of all medical records for your family members, particularly your children, as those may become very important in court as well. Again, being prepared can really make a difference!
Finally, make sure that you are filing your tax returns and that you have a reliable tax preparer to help you. Referrals are often the best way to find a good tax preparer – we have contact information for tax preparers that we know will prepare them correctly in terms of your filing status, claiming appropriate income even if it was cash and you didn’t receive a W-2, etc. If you do not have a valid Social Security Number, be sure to apply for a Tax ID Number so that you can still file taxes. Speak with your tax expert about this! Having tax returns for at least the last ten years is often times another vital element of your immigration court case, and you want to have the best record possible. So, this may also mean going back and filing taxes for any years missed. Remember – be prepared!
These are my tips for those who live in fear every day of being stopped and detained. You need to put yourself and your families in the best position possible, so you can effectively fight your case from the beginning. Please call me at 404.949.8151, or email me at DConley@immigration.net to schedule an appointment.