When a client is put into "removal" (deportation) proceedings he or she is frequently detained until bond is posted, unless subject to "mandatory detention" because of his or her criminal record. However, some clients are still eligible for bond with minor criminal records so long as one can prove they are no threat to public safety. Getting out on bond makes a huge difference because the client has more time to prepare a defense and, obviously, is not in jail waiting for the case to be heard.
I'm happy to report that with the able assistance of my of counsel colleague Robin Bernstein and my "silent partner" Elizabeth Trinidad we were able to secure a really decent bond order in Elizabeth Immigration Court this morning.
Client was a citizen of Mexico in the USA with three USC kids and eligible for cancellation of removal. The biggest problem was three "gang tattoos" on his hands and arms indicating membership in "SUR 13."
On the plus side his association with the gang was 10 years in the past, he moved to another town to get away from it, started a family, and was well respected in the community as a hard worker. He's a commercial painter, and we even had a character reference letter from one of his customers who was a police detective in town. He also only had two actual convictions on his record, for "petty disorderly persons" offenses that are not crimes in New Jersey.
The bond motion was literally months in preparation and included exhibits lettered from A through DDD. It included third-party references to the gang "SUR 13" and its lack of prominence as a threat to public safety in New Jersey. State Police gang surveys publicly available over the last decade helped, as did local newspaper reporting downplaying the "gang" element in local malicious mischief matters in the client's former home town.
I was extremely pleased when the judge carefully considered all the evidence and then ordered bond at $12,000.
The lesson I take from this is that there is no substitute for thorough preparation and documentation humanizing our clients so that the courts can see beyond tattoos and labels.