Houman Fakhimi

Judge: California Immigrant Detainees Deserve Bond Hearing

A federal judge in Southern California has ruled that immigrant detainees fighting deportation are entitled automatically to a hearing after being held six months or more.

Our Riverside criminal defense lawyers know that many of those awaiting deportation are there because they have been convicted of some crime. A recent Human Rights Watch calculation estimates that nearly three-fourths of all non-citizens deported for criminal convictions between 1997 and 2007 were for non-violent offenses. Some 1 million families were impacted during that time.

Given that it's estimated some 2 million people will be deported in 2014, the number of families that will be torn apart by these actions is likely much higher.

The kinds of crimes that may qualify you for deportation include:

  • Aggravated felonies;
  • Drug crimes;
  • Crimes involving firearms;
  • Domestic Violence;
  • Crimes of moral turpitude (ranging from burglary to prostitution to perjury).

Those who re-enter the country after being deported following a conviction for an aggravated felony could risk a federal prison term of up to 20 years.

While the latest news on bond hearings is excellent news for the estimated 2,000 detainees in the Adelanto, Santa Ana City Jail, Theo Lacey and James A. Musick facilities, it's exponentially better to avoid a conviction that could land you there in the first place.

While some of those qualifying crimes are very specific, others (crimes of moral turpitude) are rather vague. Even aggravated felonies in some cases can be very broad, and in some circumstances might even include working with a phony identification or shoplifting. Even if your attorney isn't able to get the charge tossed completely, it may be possible to have the charge pleaded down to a lesser crime that won't qualify you for deportation.

Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Houman Fakhimi understands the stakes.

Some of these individuals have been held for years waiting for a bond hearing, fighting their forced exit from the country. Prior to this ruling, detainees with criminal records, along with immigrants caught as they illegally entered the country, were typically held without bond hearings.

Meanwhile, those immigrants who didn't have a criminal record and were picked up on U.S. soil typically were given hearings.

Government leaders have argued that routinely providing hearings for everyone is going to be a strain on resources and that criminal detainees forfeit their right to any type of release.

This meant that if you were convicted of a serious offense, you could face years of additional incarceration with no possibility of release before being ejected from the country. This ruling changes that, but it won't necessarily prevent your ultimate removal from the country.

Immigrants who are charged with a crime in California are especially vulnerable, not only for these reasons, but because they often lack a familiarity regarding their rights in the American criminal justice system. They may be easily intimidated by authorities and pressured into entering a plea deal that could have long-lasting consequences to their future. Additionally, many might be contending with a language barrier that could prevent them from fully understanding the implications of the proceedings.

Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are arrested in Riverside.

Additional Resources

Immigration detainees entitled to bond hearings, judge rules, Aug. 8, 2013, By Cindy Chang, The Los Angeles Times.