Volunteers, at one point or another, visit or write to individuals who ask for help with requesting parole from ICE. This post provides a bit of background on parole, but focuses on how volunteers who visit or write to detained migrants can help.
Those who are in mandatory detention (including asylum seekers who present themselves at a port of entry, and people with certain past criminal convictions) are typically not eligible for bond. Rather, they are eligible for parole, which is a request reviewed by ICE (not a judge). Some parole releases may also be associated with a bond amount. It is important to understand that there are a number of contingencies beyond the scope of this post.
In addition to having a sponsor, a person seeking parole has to establish 3 things:
- Their identity
- That they are not a flight risk
- That they are not a danger to the community
In addition, ICE may want to see evidence that the individual has a viable case. For people with advanced asylum claims on appeal at the BIA or circuit court level, it can be difficult to demonstrate the viability of the case. Information on the viability of an individual’s case should only be included in a parole request prepared by an attorney. If the individual is representing themselves, they should leave that information out.
How can we, as volunteers, help people with their parole requests?
Remember, because we are not licensed lawyers or legal representatives, we cannot assemble a parole packet for someone. That is best done by an attorney. But, attorneys are in short supply. As volunteers, we can direct individuals who are representing themselves to pro se resources to guide them on how to ask for parole. A good resource for pro se materials (in both Spanish and English) is the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project based in Arizona. There are also useful materials (in both Spanish and English; look at Credible Fear Release Options/Opciones para personas con determinaciones postivias de “Miedo Creible) available from the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network based in Colorado.
Letters of support are important for parole requests. Sometimes sponsors and/or family members do not know how to write strong letters of support. This is an area where we as volunteers can help. When sponsors don’t know what to write, we can make sure they write letters that emphasize their relationship with the individual, that they are not a flight risk, and that they are not a threat to the community.
Volunteers can also help the people they visit solicit letters of support, or write support letters themselves, to help the individual demonstrate additional community ties. All letters of support should emphasize that the individual is not a flight risk, or a danger to the community. AVID, at the request of a volunteer, can provide an organizational letter to support a parole request made by the person to whom they are writing or visiting. As an affiliate of a national organization, we are in a position to connect people to support in various parts of the U.S. through Freedom for Immigrants national visitation network.
As volunteers, it is also important to let people in detention know that the process of getting parole will be a difficult one that may take longer than they realize. And, unfortunately, they may be denied. Denial is still the norm in the El Paso ICE Field Office region, despite ongoing litigation.