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© Frank


The First 24 Hours on U.S. Soil for Detained Immigrants Goes Like This

by San Diego Defense Lawyers
July 20, 2018

The below information was told to frank by San Diego Defense Lawyers. Their names will remain private for the privacy and security of their clients and cases. 


  • Anyone arrested between 6am the day before and 6am that day will spend whatever time they have in custody at Border Patrol. 
    • This is important for the system to function because there is not enough space in jail to house people.
    • Have to find new spaces for people to physically be in order to avoid booking anyone into jail. 
  • Over the weekend Border Patrol continues to do what they do, arrest folks along the border who cross in all ways. Those trying to cross into the U.S. are arrrested once they are north of the border. 
  • Anyone who finds themselves in this situation will be put into a transport vehicle. 
    • These vehicles fit a few different descriptions, but primarily are described as black SUVs. 
  • Once in the car the detained are handcuffed.
  • Individuals are then taken to an area Border Patrol Station.
    • Very limited ability to house people for short periods of time. 
  • Reports on conditions are awful.
    • Very few say they could sleep at all. 
    • Lights are on 24/7.
    • Routinely in rooms so tightly packed no one can lay down. 
    • Too cold. 
    • The foil blankets we've come to associate visually with this crisis are not abundant enough. People try to huddle together to share if they can. 
    • Meager rations. Described as a juice box and frozen burrito. Some report they got a burrito for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Others received only one during lunch with a juice box and bag of chips. 
  • From Border Patrol people are loaded onto a bus and taken to the basement of the local jail downtown San Diego. 
  • Individuals unloaded from buses. 
  • Everyone receives the same medical clearance, but lawyers have still seen people with broken bones requesting medical assistance in court. 
  • At this point everyone is still in the clothes they were arrested in. 
  • Property has become a separate issue. No one knows where anything is at this point and it's unlikely people will get anything back. The plan was for individuals to carry a bag with them that is being tracked by the Mexican Consulate after court.
    • The Mexican Consulate has been trying to help with the property issue. However, it continues to be a problem. Some judges have ordered the return of property at the time of sentencing.
    • UPDATE: Told this morning that at least two clients received their property before being deported. Hopefully this will continue. 
  • Individuals are being strip searched at this point and then shackled in their own clothes. 
  • The group arrives between 5am and 6am. Few would have had an opportunity to sleep the day before.
  • Taken into a tunnel between the jail and the courthouse where they will spend the next few hours. 
  • Everyone waits in the tunnel to meet their lawyers. 
  • Between 8am and 8:30am the government provides the initial batch of evidence. 
  • Many will be delivered a 'time served' offer. 
    • Most clients are receiving a time served offer, but not all.
    • Others receive a 30 day, 60 day, or 90 day offer. 
  • In exchange for a time served offer individuals waive their right to appeal conviction or sentencing. 
  • Some are accepting the government's offer. 
    • Could be in clients best interest.
    • Some clients are so desperate to get home they chose to take it. 
  • Judges have imposed time served in most cases. 
  • Lawyers are receiving at maximum 4 clients per day. 
  • They have three hours to meet with all four clients which averages around 45 minutes per client. 
    • This time includes conveying the offer. 
  • Many have translators. Non federal defenders don't, but will be reimbursed for translators later on. 
    • Many of the lawyers are Spanish speakers. 
  • For non Spanish speakers this process is a mess. 
    • Have had a very difficult time finding available, qualified interpreters for Other Than Spanish Speaking clients. 
  • The government has converted part of a federal building into a space for the detained to meet with their lawyers. 
    • This is basically a garage with 15 plastic fold out tables. 
    • U.S. Marshals are present in the interview area. 
    • Border Patrol is NOT present in the interview area. 
  • There is NO private space to meet with clients. 
  • Lawyers are spending time disabusing their clients of the notion that their experience in custody at Border Patrol is what custody in the U.S. is like everywhere. 
  • At the end of the 3 hours clients begin to meet with the Mexican Consulate to sort out paperwork and try to connect with family. 
  • Court happens in two waves in the afternoon. 
  • 1st wave are those who accepted the time served offer or plead guilty in front of the judge. 
  • They are all brought up in clothes they were arrested in for an open hearing. 
    • On the day this was relayed to frank (1st day of hearings) there were no shackles because the numbers were low and the U.S. Marshals were high. The judge did not require shackles. 
    • It is a constant battle not to shackle clients in pre-trial hearings. 
    • UPDATE: Now everyone is shackled. 
  • Everyone who accepted offer in court will take their sentence and then be taken to immigration custody. 
  • At this point the government has avoided booking them into a jail, ever. 
  • A guilty plea is knowing and voluntary which is contentious given that this is all happening so quickly. 
  • The next wave of people are those who did not plead guilty. 
  • Unless clients can immediatley post bail (which is hard because there is no system), the judge will hold a bond hearing, set bail, reveal the charges. 
  • Client will then get booked into U.S. custody and taken to a local jail. 
  • A status hearing will happen at the end of the week if they decide to plead guilty or demand trial.
  • During this time / process lawyers will try to bail them out. 
  • So far there have been 5-6 constitutional objections.