Immigration Holds in Harris County Jail
If you are undocumented in the United States and you get arrested in Harris County, there is a good possibility that an Immigration “ICE” Hold will be placed on you once you get to the county jail. From speaking to many of our clients, what usually happens is the intake officers ask you if you are a citizen or legal permanent resident. If you answer “no”, then they put you in a different holding cell so that you can be interviewed by immigration. If immigration determines that you should be placed into deportation proceedings, then an ICE hold will be placed, and you will not be able to bond out.
Sometimes, even if you have an ICE hold, you can still pay the bond, but it is generally not a good idea. What ends up happening is, you pay the bond, and when you are getting released from jail immigration is waiting for you to send you to the immigration detention center. The problem is you never finish your criminal case. Once immigration finds out that you have a pending criminal case, they will usually send you right back to the county jail pursuant to a bench warrant from the criminal court. What tends to happen is the person in custody misses their criminal court date because they are with immigration. Missing criminal court can cause your bond to be forfeited, and that means you (or your bonding company) lose the money from the bond, causing more problems.
It is typically better to finish the criminal case first, and then work on the immigration case. In our office we always sit down with our client and their family and advise them what is the best option for them. Sometimes the best option is to plea guilty quickly to get the individual over to immigration where we can request a bond. Other times, the best thing to do is stay at the county jail and fight the criminal case, because some criminal convictions can essentially be automatic deportations. Either way, when the case is over the person in custody gets transferred to immigration.
There are some exceptions, we have had clients with ICE holds who were not taken to Immigration, and we have had undocumented clients who were not given ICE holds at all. There is no firm system in place, it seems to be a case by case evaluation that immigration makes. Every situation is different, if you find yourself having questions about this issue please feel free to contact us at our office number 713-222-2828 and we will be more than happy to evaluate your case.