With more attention focused on immigration under the Trump administration — many people may not realize that Fresno is home to a holding facility for undocumented immigrants who have been arrested. Immigration attorneys say the building’s procedures can pose a challenge getting immigrants the proper help.
The building is an Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Office through the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. it is located at 733 L St. in downtown Fresno.
The only feature identifying the building is an ICE sign on the door. However, you still don’t know what happens inside.
Immigration attorney Camille Cook has been inside several times to meet clients arrested by ICE. Cook said those arrested are mostly ones with criminal records.
“As an attorney, I’m not allowed in the actual holding facilities,” she said. “I’ve been in the attorney visitation rooms where you can talk to your client through a screen, like you would in a jail.”
A statement from ICE said the office can hold persons for up to 12 hours. After that, they’ll be transported to a detention facility.
Cook said the window can be limiting. If a person has been arrested, it can take time for their family to track them down. Meanwhile, the one in custody can make life-changing decisions without legal consultation.
“If I can get involved early enough while they’re in Fresno, I might be able to help get them released that same day,” Cook said.
Immigration attorney Lazaro Salazar agrees with Cook. But, even with legal assistance, another challenge is dealing with the limits of the office. Say a bond is given, it has to be paid out of town.
“Best as I can understand is [the office] simply doesn’t have a cashier’s box to accept the bond. So, somebody who’s issued a bond out of Fresno will then have to have a family member race down to either Bakersfield or Sacramento,” said Salazar.
The Fresno ERO Office is one of nine operating through ICE’s San Francisco Field Office, according to an ICE statement. The other eight are scattered throughout the state from the Bakersfield area, up to the California-Oregon border.
Three of the offices are in Hawaii, Saipan and Guam respectively.