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Lawyers working to free undocumented immigrants

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Lawyers for eight men jailed after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid are trying to get them released from ICE custody so they can spend the holidays with their families in North Carolina.

Jorge Juerta Pone, 20; Yair Cruz Garcia, 26; Aldo Temix, 27; German Rodriguez Martinez, 22; Gabriel Miramontes Rosales, 35; Jorge Escamilla Hernandez, 25; Humberto Farfan Ramon, 23; and Edgar Martinez Rodriguez, 20, left the Franklin County Detention Center in Louisburg earlier this week. They will be sent to detention centers in Alamance or Mecklenburg counties.

The men are among 18 employees of Durham-based J&A Framing and Carpentry who were arrested Nov. 15 during ICE raids at three work sites in Cary, Apex and Chapel Hill. They pleaded guilty to misdemeanor immigration-related charges and served 30 days in the detention center.

The 10 remaining immigrants, who have already been in jail more than a month, have not been indicted. They remain in federal detention pending their court hearing. Amanda Mason, an attorney representing the immigrants, said they will not be released before Christmas.

Although ICE has refused to provide details about the raid, Marty Rosenbluth, executive director of the N.C. Immigrant Rights Project, who is representing the eight men, said his clients were most likely charged criminally because the federal government is interested in getting information about their employer, Jose Lopez.

Lopez has not been charged.

The U.S. Attorney's office did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Rosenbluth, lawyers with the N.C. Justice Center and several private attorneys, who are not charging a fee on these cases, are working on behalf of the immigrants.

The federal minimum for an immigration bond is $1,500, and it could exceed $5,000. After the bond is paid—although it is unlikely their families have the money, considering the men have not been able to work—the men would be allowed to return to their homes in North Carolina until their immigration court hearing in the next 30 to 60 days.

"This keeps the men from having to sit in jail while waiting for hearing," Rosenbluth said. "Very likely their families are going to need to turn to community for help."

If the bond is not paid, the men will be transferred to a detention facility in Georgia. From there, they would be immediately deported. Rosenbluth said that immigration courts in Georgia rarely grant those bonds, whereas the Charlotte immigration court has been notably fairer.

"It is really hard to win an immigration case when an individual is detained and they don't have access to their records or papers. The fact we can get them out makes it possible for them to have their case heard, and that is very important," Rosenbluth said. "None of these people are dangerous criminals, and we're going to fight as hard as we can for those that do have a right to stay."

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