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Bail for refugees at the US border: attorney clarifies the risks of guarantors and asylum seekers

From March 2021, it is advisable for all asylum seekers in America to have a sponsor in the United States. Previously, applicants without children needed sponsors who carried a lot more responsibility, took on more responsibilities and provided a huge amount of paperwork, and in some cases paid bail for a potential refugee to be released from an immigration detention center. But in early 2021, the US southern border asylum process was simplified.

Photo: Shutterstock

Previously, everyone was initially detained and then individually considered who could be released and who should be left in the detention center pending trial. It is now considered inappropriate to spend public resources to detain an asylum seeker if customs officials have determined that:

  1. this person does not pose a threat to society in the United States;
  2. the likelihood that he will be hiding from the immigration police, the judicial system and other authorities in the United States is small.

However, immigration officials want to know where this immigrant can be found in the future, if necessary, and how to notify him of court dates. And here the need for a surety arises. If a newly arrived foreign citizen has nowhere to go, he cannot provide an address in the United States where he wants to be notified about his process, he can be left or kept for a considerable time "under the supervision" of the immigration authorities - in other words, left in an immigration detention center. If a US resident acts as a surety for a new immigrant and the immigrant himself does not pose a particular risk, he or she is released to await trial at large. The guarantors essentially act as guardians of the newcomers. At the same time, they take custody of the asylum seeker only in words, without providing any documentation from their side or concluding a written agreement on accepting responsibilities to the US authorities.

She explained how the surety system works and what risks both sides bear, especially for ForumDaily readers. immigration lawyer Ekaterina Muratova.

Who is the guarantor

The surety, in fact, helps to relieve the applicant of the need to wait for the trial in the detention center. Whereas previously only US citizens or permanent residents of the United States could sponsor, now any person legally residing in the States can be a sponsor, including those who themselves have applied for asylum in the United States earlier and are in the process of awaiting their interview or court hearing. Also, various charitable and non-profit organizations can act as guarantors.

The guarantor does not need to come to the border and pick up his ward. Often, he just needs to answer the phone and confirm that he knows the asylum seeker and is ready to help him / her with placement in the United States (housing, food and possibly financial support at first, if needed). The key phrase here is "if need be." There is absolutely no requirement that newly arrived immigrants live with their sponsor.

In addition, the guarantor provides his address to the immigration services, agrees to accept all correspondence in the case of his ward and notify him of this in time. It is important to understand that the responsibility still rests with the applicant himself, who is in the immigration process. It is he who must keep track of all changes in his case and the dates of the court or meetings with immigration officers. Ignorance of these dates or unwillingness to know them does not relieve him of responsibility for negative consequences in case of non-compliance with legal procedures. In this case, the guarantor does not bear any responsibility.

Immigration lawyer Ekaterina Muratova. Photos from the personal archive

Sometimes, just contacts of the guarantor are enough, border guards do not always call the indicated numbers, but Ekaterina Muratova advises not to hope for it.

“I have heard that there are times when people called guarantors completely unfamiliar to them in the United States. I do not advise you to rely on "chance" and take risks. Remember, the legal process begins from the moment you first contact immigration officials. Anything you say can be later used against you in court. Providing false information will not render such applicant's testimony in court credible or credible. Based on my practice, the ultimate goal of most immigrants is not to cross the border and end up in the United States by any means, but still obtain legal permanent resident status here. Therefore, you should not try to beat the system ", - emphasized immigration lawyer.

If you do not have relatives or acquaintances in the United States, you can contact human rights or charitable organizations - they are also suitable as guarantors.

If it so happens that your sponsor is not in the state where you want to live, or later, while in the United States, you decide to move from one state to another, you can freely do this. The main thing is to notify the immigration police and the department about the change of your address within ten days from the date of the move. If the state you moved from already has a hearing on your case, you must file a motion to relocate your case. The procedure is called the change of venue. It allows you to transfer your case from one court jurisdiction to another. It is better for a lawyer to do this, since a lot depends on the correctness of filling out the document.

What is the risk of the guarantor and what responsibility he faces

The sponsor must answer the call of the border guard officer and say that he knows the applicant for asylum. Then he must confirm that he is committed to helping the asylum seeker with housing, food and initial expenses, including a flight ticket or relocation to the state where he lives, if such assistance is necessary. In addition, the sponsor assumes the responsibility to ensure that the asylum seeker appears at the court hearing in his case. Sounds pretty serious, doesn't it? However, if the applicant ultimately does not appear in court and chooses to live in the United States illegally, the guarantor is not obliged to find his ward and drag him to court by force. This is already the work of the immigration police, and not of private citizens.

The same goes for his declared financial obligations. A newly arrived immigrant cannot demand from his sponsor to be fully supported in the United States.

What are the risks of an asylum applicant

Asylum seekers are an easy target for scammers. They do not know American laws, found themselves in a difficult situation and, possibly, in a difficult financial situation - just an ideal victim for swindlers. Therefore, potential refugees need to be on the alert and not trust too good promises from strangers. Remember that immigration law is one of the most complex legal systems in the United States, and the immigration process is made up of many details. If someone promises a quick and inexpensive solution to all issues, be vigilant and check the information provided. Here are some examples of possible patterns.

1. An immigration lawyer cannot be a surety. His lawyer's license does not allow him to do this. If you are looking for a guarantor and a person who calls himself an immigration lawyer suggests you “kill two birds with one stone”: prepare your case and act as your guarantor, then it is better to completely refuse his services. Such proposals most often indicate that a person does not have a lawyer's license, which means that he will not be able to represent your case in court, and you will still have to pay the full fee to a lawyer in the United States.

2. If you are looking for a guarantor through groups in social networks and they demand money from you for such a service, be careful too. Many do it unselfishly to help their compatriots. But there are already enough scammers and even bots who disappear immediately after the money is transferred to them, and the person who promised the surety eventually does not answer the call of the immigration agents.

“Once again, if it turns out that the asylum applicant initially provided false information or otherwise tried to circumvent the system, this will have a direct impact on his US immigration case,” she said. Ekaterina Muratova.

About what happens if the guarantor ignored the call of the border guards, A refugee from Russia told ForumDaily.

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