Kudos to the Kern County Public Defender’s office for partnering with Holly Cooper and the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic to provide legal assistance to noncitizens who may face deportation as a result of a criminal charge against them. Whereas your average citizen charged with a crime may be worried about going to jail and having a criminal record, the stakes are much higher for noncitizens, which includes legal permanent residents and the undocumented.
“Even convictions for fairly minor offenses can lead to severe collateral consequences for noncitizens, like families being permanently separated,” wrote Kern County Public Defender Peter Kang in an email.
Cooper is a national expert on the immigration consequences of criminal charges and convictions. She is a heavyweight in immigration law who frequently litigates before the Ninth Circuit and has won multiple precedent-setting cases, such as but not limited to Flores v. Sessions, holding immigrant children have the right to a bond hearing. This service has been sorely needed in Kern County for decades.
Speaking about bail bonds, two weeks ago a federal court approved a landmark settlement barring the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with immigration judges from setting unreasonable bonds for detained immigrants by failing to consider their financial resources. To clarify, this does not apply to criminal cases, but rather immigration cases. This is the result of a 2016 class-action suit litigated by the American Civil Liberties Union. So what does this mean for immigrants detained by ICE?
“It’s a game-changer for them,” said Bakersfield immigration attorney Win Eaton. Up to now, government lawyers could ask that bail be set at exorbitant amounts and a judge would often grant the request. If you’re an undocumented farmworker with a $10,000 bail, it might as well be $1 million because in immigration court, one must pay the full amount set by the court in order to be released. No 10 percent as in criminal court. “You’re essentially saying no bond,” said Eaton.