After 7:30 Monday morning, Erika Zurawski got a call from a friend, a man from El Salvador who was being detained by U.S. Immigrations Customs and Enforcement in South Minneapolis.
“He was terrified and I told him, I said, ‘I’m on my way. It’s OK, I’m on my way,’” said Zurawski, a member of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC).
Minutes later, still in pajamas, Zurawski arrived and saw three men in what she described as unmarked clothes in the process of arresting her friend. They had broken a window in the man’s vehicle to unlock the doors and drag him out, according to Zurawski and other witnesses who took photos and described the event in a post on MIRAC’s Facebook page.
Last week, President Donald Trump announced ICE raids would take place in cities across the U.S., primarily targeting people with previous criminal convictions or deportation orders. Minneapolis was not one of the cities named in the announcement, and it’s unclear whether Monday’s arrest is connected.
ICE arrests have been on the rise in recent years, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a Syracuse University website that makes federal data public.
Between 2016 and 2017, the number of ICE arrests increased from 111,000 to 144,000 nationally, and from 1,000 to 1,600 in Minnesota. Those numbers are higher than they’ve been since 2015, the first year for which TRAC has data available. While data is not yet available for all of 2018, the pace of arrests continued through May of that year, the most recent month of data available.
An arrest by ICE sometimes leads to deportation. Other times it doesn’t. But there’s a lot that happens between the time someone is detained by ICE and either ordered to leave the U.S. or given permission to stay in the country.
In most cases, ICE agents need a warrant. An administrative warrant, signed by an ICE official, can be used to make an arrest. A judicial warrant, signed by a judge, allows agents to search a person’s home.
If agents have reasonable suspicion a person is in violation of immigration laws and that the person is likely to flee, they may arrest a person without a warrant.
Immigrant rights groups train undocumented immigrants to ask to see warrants, and caution them not to let agents into their house if the warrant is not signed by a judge. They also counsel immigrants to remember they have the right to remain silent and to ask to speak to an attorney before answering questions.
KARE reported Monday the agency had a warrant for the man’s arrest. An agency spokesman called the man an “immigration fugitive” and said he had a misdemeanor conviction in Hennepin County in 2007 and was deported from the U.S. in 2009, the station reported.
The spokesman said the man was “uncooperative, refusing to exit his vehicle or follow lawfully issued police commands,” according to KARE. After 15 minutes of negotiation, the spokesman said ICE had “no choice than to remove him from the vehicle.”
ICE did not respond to MinnPost’s phone calls or email about the South Minneapolis arrest Monday.
Zurawski took issue not just with the man’s arrest, but the fact that both the cars and the clothing agents wore were, as she described it, unmarked.“They didn’t have clear identifying markers of who they were,” she said. “Can anybody slap on a tan vest and a gun and say ‘Come with me?’”
People detained by ICE are brought to an ICE immigration officer, who has the authority to set a bond — money a detainee can pay to go free pending trial — or refuse to set a bond, which means the detainee remains imprisoned.
“Generally, immigration officers should set a reasonable bond to make sure the person will come to his proceedings, but at the same time, giving him the chance to remain out of custody,” said Ian Bratlie, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Minnesota. In considering a bond, officers look at things like family ties in the area and any criminal history. Those who are denied a bond can generally go before a judge to get that decision reconsidered.
Even for those who are granted a bond, it can be difficult to pay. Whereas bail bondsmen might require people involved in U.S. criminal cases to put up 10 percent of their bond as collateral, that’s usually not how it works for those in immigration detention.
“Bail bondsmen tend to not want to work in the immigration context because if the individual is deported, unless they have some really strong collateral, they’re probably not going to get their money back,” Bratlie said.
At that point, people who post bond and are released are placed on an un-detained docket, which means a longer wait for court hearings. The current average wait time for those on the undetained docket is about 630 days, per TRAC.
People placed on a detained docket go through an expedited process to get court hearings. According to TRAC, 431 people were detained by ICE in Minnesota as of December 2018. Most of them are in the Sherburne County Jail, a facility the county has sought to expand to accommodate more detainees.
While non-citizens in immigration court may hire a lawyer, they aren’t entitled to a government-funded one, as defendants who are U.S. citizens are in criminal courts. Studies have found those in immigration court with a lawyer are much more likely to win their case than those without legal representation.
In arguing an undocumented immigrant’s case, a lawyer is likely to consider whether the person has a valid claim to asylum, whether the person’s removal would cause undue hardship on relatives or whether they meet other criteria to remain in the U.S, Bratlie said.
Ultimately, a federal immigration judge decides whether a person is permitted to stay in the United States or is deported. Immigration court is separate from civil or criminal courts and immigration cases have their own appeal process.
The number of people ordered deported increased in three successive years since Trump took office, only in 2019 reaching the rates seen at the height of deportation orders during Barack Obama’s presidency, according to TRAC data.
In Minnesota, the number of deportation orders has increased in the last three years but is smaller than the number of deportation orders between 2006 and 2011.