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Legal Help | Ayuda

Detained Immigrants

Watercolor illustration of immigration court proceeding. Respondent Marcelino (from Mexico) is pictured on the left weather a white shirt and blue overalls. On the right is text: Marcelino tells of his experience of being in detention in Kandiyohi jail. Quote: While I was detained some had resources. I heard people crying because they had no resources.

Illustration by Immigration Court Observer Anita White

The Advocates assists people who are in immigration detention in Minnesota and the Dakotas to apply for release through bond, parole or habeas corpus petitions, as well as to apply for asylum or other immigration benefits to remain in the U.S. In some cases, we also assist with filing complaints about human rights violations in detention.   

Legal representation makes a difference. Represented immigrants are four times more likely to be released from detention than those without counsel. If you are outside of our service area, you can find service providers at

If you cannot afford to pay the immigration bond, The Minnesota Freedom Fund may be able to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click the question to learn more.

If a person is detained by ICE, they have the right to contact an attorney but will not be provided one by the government. The person should request that the detention center allow them to make a call to an attorney. In all centers in Minnesota, the Advocates’ client line (612-341-9845) is a FREE call. All other calls will require the person get information from the detention center about costs.

If your family member is detained in Minnesota, you can determine where they are held and how to contact them by referring to this FAQ sheet and the Office of the Ombuds for Corrections website.

To find out where someone is being held by ICE and their court information, the ICE Online Detainee Locator System ( allows you to find out where someone is being detained by ICE if you know their "Alien Registration Number" (A-number) and/or their date of birth and country of origin.

To get information for a facility that is housing an ICE detainee including location, visiting information, mailing address and how to contact the facility, go to

If the person has not been previously deported, they will have the opportunity to go in front of an immigration judge and present their case. They can, generally, request “bond” to be released from detention either from ICE or an immigration judge. (See more details about bond below and note that some people are not eligible to get a bond. It is important to also note that a person only gets one bond hearing unless conditions change in their case, so they should not request a bond with an immigration judge until they are prepared to present a case for bond).

If the person has previously been removed from the U.S., they can be removed again without being able to see an immigration judge UNLESS they express a fear of torture or persecution. In that case, the person will have an opportunity to make a case that their fear is “reasonable” and request protections.

As with all things, The Advocates recommends that a person contact an immigration attorney to assist. A person detained should ask the immigration judge for time to contact an attorney and request the list of free legal providers from the court.

In some detention centers, organizations provide Legal Orientation Programs and Know Your Rights materials that can help explain additional procedures, rights and direct the person to services.

Immigration detention is essentially holding a person in jail by immigration authorities on the basis that the person is not lawfully in the U.S. or must be deported due to some violation of immigration laws. Immigration law is allowed for purposes of protecting society or to ensure the person appear at immigration proceedings. Some people are required to be detained. While a person cannot be subjected to prolonged or arbitrary detention, the Supreme Court has held that a person may nonetheless be held for quite a long time—up to six months before they even need to have their case reviewed. Regardless of the status, the person has the right to basic protections and should not suffer any human rights violations in detention. They should use the appropriate channels to file a complaint if they do suffer such a violation. This page details some options for release and filing complaints. A person should contact an attorney for assistance if they are detained.

Bond allows a person to be released from immigration detention on the payment of an amount of money set by the judge, which will be returned to them once they attend immigration proceedings and comply with any requirements set by the judge. Not everyone is entitled to bond—some people must remain detained by law for the duration of their proceedings unless they are granted parole by ICE.

If you are eligible for bond, you must request a bond hearing from an immigration judge, providing evidence in support of your case. Bonds range from $1,500 to nearly $100,000, but there is some support for help paying bonds. If you are denied bond, you can appeal that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

NOTE: You may only apply for bond once unless circumstances change in your case, so we strongly encourage you to consult a knowledgeable immigration attorney, such as The Advocates, before going through the process. You can request the immigration judge give you some time to find an attorney.

Parole allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release a person from detention on certain conditions. This may be the only option for some people who are otherwise barred from obtaining release on bond, and is usually based on humanitarian factors. Parole is requested through ICE, not the immigration court.

Habeas corpus is a petition made to a federal court—not an immigration court—to release a person from detention on constitutional grounds. To apply, the person must make a petition to the court having jurisdiction of their case. Generally, this is done only where a person has been held in prolonged detention (more than six months).

A person in immigration proceedings must prove to the immigration judge that they either should not be removed or that they have the right to remain in the U.S. Usually, this is done by applying for an “immigration benefit” to remain, such as asylum, withholding of removal, cancellation of removal, or adjustment of status. 

Alternatively, a person can show they cannot be removed from the U.S., for example by disproving the reasons the government alleges they can be removed (criminal issues, no lawful status, etc.) or that they are a U.S. citizen.

NOTE: There are many immigration statuses available, and immigration law is incredibly complex, so a person should contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney to check if they have a way to remain in the U.S.

The Advocates assists with certain types of applications and conducts Legal Orientation Programs in detention to screen for and teach people about these options.

While no one can be retaliated against for filing a complaint, it is important to understand that complaint mechanisms are limited in their results. Filing a complaint is unlikely to result in someone being released from detention, but can result in other remedies, such as getting someone medical care that is needed, etc. It is also important for the person to understand that these mechanisms can take time and will not always offer an immediate resolution. The Advocates still encourages using these mechanisms to help improve systems and document abuses.

The Minnesota Office of the Ombuds for Corrections has the authority to take and investigate complaints from or about any Department of Corrections' staff or facility charged with the care and custody of inmates and any regional or local correctional facility licensed by the DOC in Minnesota.

The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) reviews and investigates civil rights and civil liberties complaints made by the public regarding U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies and activities.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention investigates instances of arbitrary detention and encourages governments to stop abuses. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants also reviews allegations of human rights abuses against immigrants, including abuses while in detention.

If one or more of the following abuse has happened to you or a family member, you can file a complaint:

  • Mandatory detention without review;
  • Prolonged detention beyond your sentence or after being ordered deported from the U.S.;
  • Use of ICE detainers to hold immigrants after they have served criminal sentences;
  • Detention of minors;
  • Use of solitary confinement or non-disciplinary segregation;
  • Physical assault, abuse or exposure to extreme heat or cold;
  • Sexual assault or abuse;
  • Denial of medication, medical care or received poor care;
  • Denial of access to legal documents;
  • Denial of access to adequate hygiene, proper bedding or clothing; or
  • Denial of access to proper nutrition, exercise or fresh air.

Once the Working Group receives the information provided in your complaint, it will decide on one of the following:

  • There is no case of arbitrary detention or related violation,
  • More information is required; or 
  • An arbitrary deprivation of liberty has been demonstrated.

If the Working Group determines an arbitrary detention of liberty has occurred, it will begin communicating with the United States government and provide recommendations regarding your detention and encourage the government to improve or correct your situation.

Not in MN, ND or SD? is a searchable online directory of over 1,000 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states.

Outside the U.S.?

The UN Refugee Agency provides information and legal advice to stateless people through its partners in many countries around the world.