Detained: A Study of Immigration Bond Hearings

60 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2015 Last revised: 29 Nov 2016

See all articles by Emily Ryo

Emily Ryo

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: October 13, 2015


Immigration judges make consequential decisions that fundamentally affect the basic life chances of thousands of noncitizens and their family members every year. Yet, we know very little about how immigration judges make their decisions, including decisions about whether to release or detain noncitizens pending the completion of their immigration cases. Using original data on long-term immigrant detainees, I examine for the first time judicial decision-making in immigration bond hearings. I find that there are extremely wide variations in the average bond grant rates and bond amount decisions among judges in the study sample. What are the determinants of these bond decisions? My analysis shows that the odds of being granted bond are more than 3.5 times higher for detainees represented by attorneys than those who appeared pro se, net of other relevant factors. My analysis also shows that the detainees’ prior criminal history is the only significant legally-relevant factor in both the grant/deny and bond amount decisions, net of other relevant factors. This finding points to the need for further research on whether and how immigration courts might be exercising crime control through administrative proceedings.

Keywords: immigration detention, immigration courts, bond hearings, judicial decision-making, crimmigration

Suggested Citation

Ryo, Emily, Detained: A Study of Immigration Bond Hearings (October 13, 2015). Law & Society Review (2016), USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 15-31, USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS15-29, Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper No. 2628962, Available at SSRN:

Emily Ryo (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics