A #prayer for #peace in #Mexico

Writing an asylum brief tonight. Cartel violence in Guerrero, Mexico. The pictures of what human beings do to each other, over and over…
These words probably change nothing, but repeating them starts to lighten the weight sitting on my chest tonight.

Published in: on February 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My loved one was picked up by ICE! Now what?!? #ICE #immigration #deportation

I practice almost exclusively immigration removal defense. Over the years, after doing countless initial consultations and taking frantic phone calls from loved ones, I have developed the following to answer the most common questions I am usually asked shortly after a person is placed in removal proceedings.

(if a person was picked up crossing the border, or if they have prior removal/deportation orders in their history, they may be deported right away without the opportunity of going before a judge. STOP READING THIS and contact an immigration attorney immediately to see if something can be done to stop their removal)

Northwest Detention Center

GEO Northwest Detention Center, Tacoma WA

Common Questions:

1. Is the detainee eligible for bond? There are a couple of things that make a person ineligible for bond, like an aggravated felony or being picked up by ICE within a certain radius of the Border. If a person is ineligible for bond, it might be possible to work out a deal with ICE to be released on “parole.” Parole is sometimes available from ICE if the detainee has been found credible in an asylum interview, or for other reasons has been determined by ICE to not be a flight risk or a threat to the community.

2. If he/she is eligible for bond, what to expect? A bond hearing needs to be scheduled. At that hearing, by law, the immigration judge cannot order a bond lower than $1,200. The amount of bond is set at the judge’s discretion so factors like number of DUI’s, or other criminal offenses, and the strength of the detainee’s case to stay in the United States will affect the amount of bond that is set. Sometimes, even if a person is technically eligible for bond, the judge may decide that he/she is too great a “flight risk” or a “danger to society” and refuse to set bond at all.

3. If a detainee bonds out of the detention center, future court dates will be scheduled at the Immigration Court that has jurisdiction over his/her case. If a detainee cannot bond out, court will be (usually) at the detention center where the detainee is being housed.

4. What court dates? Usually, a person in immigration legal proceedings will have 3 types of court hearings-bond, a Master Calendar Hearing, and an Individual Hearing. Sometimes, because the Immigration Court dockets are overcrowded and courts are understaffed and underfunded, a person will have several Master hearings.

5. Master Calendar Hearing? The MCH is like an arraignment in criminal court.

  • The judge makes sure the detainee has been served the paperwork that outlines the detainee’s “charges“- i.e. entered without inspection, or entered on a tourist visa and stayed after its expiration. These charges will also include any prior deportations/removals, and any criminal history. The detainee will be asked to concede and/or deny these charges.
  • The detainee will be asked to designate a country of removal (if he/she is deported, to which country should the USA send them).
  • The detainee will be asked to state what relief(s) he/she is seeking. This can be a combination of things-asylum and U Visa, for example, or Cancellation of Removal, etc. The detainee is also expected to submit any applications, e.g. asylum, COR, at this time (especially if this is the second or third Master Hearing).
  • The judge reviews any submissions and then sets the date for the detainee’s Individual Hearing, or another Master Hearing, depending on the court schedule and/or whether applications for relief have already been submitted to the court.

6. Individual Hearing? A MCH is held in front of everyone else who has a bond or MCH for that day. Anyone, usually, can sit in the court room and listen. An Individual Hearing is just the detainee, his/her attorney (if one has been retained), DHS/ICE attorney, and the judge. This is a trial to see if the detainee is eligible for the relief from deportation that he/she is requesting. The detainee can bring witnesses, will provide testimony, and other evidence they wish the judge to consider. DHS/ICE attorney will also bring evidence, cross examine the detainee and any other witnesses. The judge will also ask questions.  There is no jury. The decision whether the detainee stays in the United States or is removed is up to the judge.

7. If the Individual Hearing does not go well and the detainee is ordered “removed” (deported), this decision may be appealed.

8. If the immigrant is detained, this process may take 3-6 months, sometimes up to one year. If there is an appeal, the process may take longer. If the immigrant is out on bond/parole for the course of the proceedings, it could take a year or longer before the first Master Calendar Hearing and, often, cases drag on for years.

9. Most Immigration attorneys cost money. However, the money you spend to hire/retain a good immigration attorney will help you to

  • save money: attorneys know how to present a bond application to try and obtain the lowest bond possible from the immigration judge. Attorney’s also know when and where fee waivers may be requested so that their client does not end up paying large government application fees.
  • save time: attorneys with experience can hear the facts of a detainee’s case and determine if he/she has a case to stay in the United States, or if they should request Voluntary Departure and try to re-enter legally at a later date. Detainees can spend a year or longer detained, trying to figure out the immigration legal system only to be deported anyway. Some of the mistakes made along the way can have devastating consequences on any application to re-enter the United States at a later date. An immigration attorney can prevent this from happening. Immigration attorneys with experience also know what documentation and evidence is needed to present a strong case to the judge and will increase the likelihood of the immigrant winning his/her case in court.

10. Sometimes a detainee contacts me after they have tried to do all of the above without legal representation. Once the judge has denied all applications and ordered that person to be deported, it is often too late to undo the damage that has been done. This can be a very costly (in so many ways) mistake for the detainee.

One final tip-if you are looking to hire an immigration attorney, make sure that they are a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association. This is a group of attorneys who focus on immigration law and who stay up to date on the latest changes in immigration law. They also have a network of other immigration attorneys who all work together to make sure that the members of AILA have the best tools at their disposal.

(The above is an over view of the immigration court process and is intended to provide very general information. Immigration law is very time and fact specific. If you or someone you know has been placed in removal proceedings, contact an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible to discuss the case)

Noelle Sharp is an immigration attorney who focusses on removal defense and practices primarily in the Pacific Northwest. She is a member of AILA and the American Immigration Council’s Ambassador to the Washington AILA Chapter. Feel free to contact the Immigration Law Offices of Noelle Sharp if you have any questions- 253-254-5298

Published in: on February 4, 2015 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Government Shutdown Pick Up Lines

-I’m on furlough from the TSA. Want me to wand you?
-Do you not carry health insurance? Because you’ve got “fine” written all over you.
-The only thing nonessential about you are those pants

Published in: on October 2, 2013 at 12:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy Birthday Yosemite National Park. GOP just shut you down

On the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park… the Tea Party shuts it down. Indefinitely

Published in: on October 1, 2013 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

An “illegal” next door?

Woman calls my office because she has an “illegal” living next-door, and wants to know what to do about it as the police refuse to arrest him? I told her to give him my card

Published in: on September 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Say no to the “SAFE Act”

HR 2778, the so-called “SAFE Act” being considered by the House Judiciary Committee, is not the reform we’ve been fighting for. It is a hateful bill to criminalize undocumented immigrants and make racial profiling the law of the land.

Our friends at United We Dream put together a series of infographics highlighting some of the worst parts of HR 2778. You can also see the full list at http://unitedwedream.org/safeact

SHARE with your friends to help educate our community about this dangerous bill!


Published in: on September 19, 2013 at 4:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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Court Rules Law Enforcement Can’t Prolong Stop to Question an Individual About Immigration Status

Court Rules Law Enforcement Can’t Prolong Stop
to Question an Individual About Immigration Status

In a victory for fair treatment of immigrants, Pierce County Superior Court has found that local law enforcement officers cannot prolong a detention to question individuals about their immigration status, citizenship status, and/or country of origin.

The ruling came in a lawsuit (Ramirez-Rangel v. Kitsap County) filed in January 2012 by the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project on behalf of three individuals who were unlawfully detained so that Kitsap County Sheriffs could question them about and investigate their immigration status. In its Order, the Court gave guidance to all local law enforcement by finding that the Washington State Constitution “forbids local enforcement officers from prolonging a detention to investigate or engage in questioning about an individual’s immigration statute, citizenship status and/or national origin.”

On February 1, 2010, the three plaintiffs were harvesting shellfish when two Kitsap County deputy sheriffs noticed them speaking Spanish. Once the plaintiffs exited the beach, the deputies followed their truck and pulled them over, allegedly to investigate a defective headlight and their shellfish licenses. Although the deputies resolved all issues relating to the headlight and shellfish, the deputies prolonged the traffic stop to question the plaintiffs about their immigration status. The deputies then called the Border Patrol and held the plaintiffs until Border Patrol officers arrived at the scene.

“This is a great victory for civil liberties. The Court recognized that even if police have a lawful basis to stop people, police cannot continue to detain individuals to question them about their immigration status,” said ACLU of Washington staff attorney La Rond Baker. “The ruling provides clarity for law enforcement officers that questioning about immigration status during routine stops is unconstitutional.”

“This case was a clear-cut example of racial profiling. We are pleased that the Court made clear that state and local law enforcement are not authorized to detain individuals to investigate their immigration status. This will help ensure that people are not subjected to unlawful detention just to investigate their perceived immigration status,” said Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project staff attorney.

Plaintiffs were represented by Matt Adams of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project; Sarah Dunne, Nancy Talner, and La Rond Baker of the ACLU of Washington Foundation; and Maren Norton, Karin Jones, and Skylee Robinson of Stoel Rives LLP.

Published in: on September 17, 2013 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Few Ice Detainers Target Serious Criminals

Few Ice Detainers Target Serious Criminals

Very timely case-by-case data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) show that no more than 14 percent of the “detainers” issued by the government in FY 2012 and the first four months of FY 2013 met the agency’s stated goal of targeting individuals who pose a serious threat to public safety or national security.

In fact, roughly half of the 347,691 individuals subject to an ICE detainer (47.7 percent) had no record of a criminal conviction, not even a minor traffic violation, according to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

The detainers are notices issued by ICE and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies which ask local, state and federal law enforcement agencies not to release suspected non-citizens held at their facilities, in order to give ICE an opportunity to take them into its custody. Detainers, often called “immigration holds,” are a primary tool that ICE uses to apprehend the suspects it is seeking.

These results contrast sharply with the multiple press releases and official statements issued by the agency. “The removal of aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety shall be ICE’s highest immigration enforcement priority,” claimed former ICE Director John Morton in an agency-wide memo describing the Obama Administration’s approach to immigration enforcement announced in June 2010.

Additional detailed analysis of these case-by-case ICE detainer records is now available in the second part of this three-part series at:


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TRAC is self-supporting and depends on foundation grants, individual contributions and subscription fees for the funding needed to obtain, analyze and publish the data we collect on the activities of the US Federal government. To help support TRAC’s ongoing efforts, go to:


Published in: on September 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sign up for National Day of Action

Sign up to join the National Day of Action Sept 10 and tell Congress you want Immigration Reform

Published in: on September 4, 2013 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Deferred Action-A “How To” Guide


Published in: on September 3, 2013 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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