About the Bond Fund

En español

The National Immigrant Bond Fund closed at the end of January, 2011.  We successfully loaned all our money to help detained immigrants post bond, and have a fair day in court.  We thank the hundreds of individuals who donated to the project; our local nonprofit partners who worked with the detainees and their families; and, our hard-working steering committee.  Staffing for the project was supported by generous grants from the Open Society Institute, Four Freedoms Fund, and the Hildreth-Stuart Foundation.

What was Our Mission?

All people in America, including immigrants, deserve basic human rights and dignity. This includes the right to legal counsel, ability to communicate and visit with children and families, and humane treatment in custody.

The National Immigrant Bond Fund reaffirmed the values of dignity and due process by helping immigrants detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions to post bond quickly to secure a fair hearing in America’s courts.

The Challenge

ICE agents and local police conduct workplace raids and other enforcement actions across the country without accountability.  They detain and separate hard-working immigrant parents from their children.  Detainees who can not afford the bond for release are in accelerated deportation proceedings – with little opportunity to contact their families or legal counsel.

People who are detained by ICE need to post bond immediately to establish immigration court jurisdiction in the district where they were arrested, and avoid ICE’s rapid transfer of detainees outside the district. Posting bond also improves the detainee’s ability to present his/her case before a judge.

Our Response

  • We helped immigrants who were swept up in ICE and local enforcement actions.  When a person who is detained by ICE pays an immigration bond, s/he can be released while the case is pending.  The Bond Fund worked with local nonprofits to provide a matching loan to help eligible immigrants post bond.  The immigrant’s family or friends raised a portion of the bond money too.
  • We worked to build public support for immigration reform by focusing on harsh immigration enforcement tactics, and the lack of rights afforded detainees.
  • We supported local communities’ efforts to respond effectively to ICE enforcement actions.

Video via @AmericaStories: Immigrant workers challenge exploitation, discrimination

This past summer, immigration agents raided a factory in Fullerton, California run by the company Terra Universal. Agents corralled the workers and handcuffed and arrested 43 people, most of whom are now in deportation proceedings. In late August the workers, with support from organizations like the ACLU and CHIRLA, filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court against Terra Universal, charging the multi-million dollar federal government contractor with violations of federal wage and hour laws for requiring employees to work long hours without overtime pay and systematically discriminating against Latino workers based on their race and immigration status. Click here for more info.

Video: A Bond Fund Client Speaks Out

The National Immigrant Bond Fund is fighting for dignity and due process in North Carolina, where local police are arresting people of color for minor infractions, and reporting them to immigration authorities.   In Samuel’s case, the Bond Fund helped to pay his bond, and SCSJ represented him in court.  Despite 13 years in the US, and strong ties to family and community here, Samuel is not eligible to legalize his status.  He will have to leave the country.

Sometimes all the Bond Fund can do is help someone out of detention, to say his goodbyes.  People who can not post bond are deported directly from a detention center, without the opportunity to put their lives in order or see their loved ones again.  The video above was created by Tasha Prados, a University of North Carolina intern at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ).  En Espanol, with English subtitles.

Andrea Black of DWN talks to the Bond Fund about Arizona

Bond Fund:  First of all, full disclosure:  Andrea is on our Steering Committee.  Thank you Andrea, for all your time and expertise these last two years with the Bond Fund.  Can you talk a little about your background?

Andrea Black:  I’m the Network Coordinator at the Detention Watch Network.  Prior to that I worked as an attorney at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona, which assists and represents immigrants detained in Arizona.

BF:  What are your primary concerns about the new law in Arizona?

Andrea Black:  It is tearing apart families, and it violates our Constitution and international human rights law.  Clearly it increases the likelihood of arbitrary arrests and detention.  Once a person is detained, the likelihood of finding an attorney plummets.  Detained cases move quickly, and its very hard to gather witnesses, evidence, and put together a case.

BF:  What is happening locally with immigration enforcement in Arizona?

Andrea Black:  As a result of expanded ICE enforcement collaboration with local police, there is already a lot of immigration processing at local county jails.  The new law puts more power in the hands of local police to ask for papers, make a determination, and immediately hand someone over to ICE for deportation.  A person who can not show documents may be offered no options other than signing a stipulated order of removal, and getting on a bus to leave the country right then and there.  People don’t know what they have signed, and attorneys can’t get there fast enough.

BF:  Does Arizona have the capacity to detain all the people who could be arrested?

Click here to watch a video of Andrea Black

Andrea Black:  No, the detention system in Arizona is already out of control, with ever-expanding bed space, poor conditions,  and limited access to family and counsel that further isolates the detained person.  The expansion of the prison system on the backs of immigrants is lining the pockets of private prison executives, and ultimately the community pays the cost.

BF: How isolated are these detention centers?

Andrea Black: The Eloy detention center, for example, is out in the desert, an hour and a quarter from Phoenix.  Its very isolated, with limited visiting hours and no public transportation.  Families who travel from Phoenix to visit loved ones in detention will pay $200 for a taxicab.  When people are released, they are let out the door, with no way to get anywhere.

BF:  Do you have hope for the future of immigration enforcement and policy?

Andrea Black:  Communities are up in arms.  People are educating themselves, asking questions of their elected officials, making demands to keep their communities and families safe.  Here is the potential for reform.   What can we do to support it?  We can get the word out, share stories, and help people get out of detention for a fair hearing.

BF:  Thank you Andrea, for your part in helping people come together to call for reform.

For more information on the Arizona immigration law and how it will impact detention and deportation, check out DWN’s “Detention and Deportation Consequences of Arizona Immigration Law (SB 1070)

Audio: Interview with Rebecca Fontaine, a Community Organizer in North Carolina

Community Organizer Rebecca Fontaine

The Bond Fund interviews Rebecca Fontaine, who is the community organizer at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice  (SCSJ) in Durham, North Carolina.  She discusses how she works with her colleagues and the Bond Fund on our joint project to oppose local police cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Rebecca dedicates her time to Immigrants’ Rights organizing and casework as a bilingual immigration paralegal. She brings a long history of participating in Latin America Solidarity work including trade justice campaigns, equitable development, demilitarization, and immigrants rights activism. Before coming to SCSJ she worked in Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast for over two years doing community-based development with rural families and coordinating experiential education for international delegations. Most recently she worked in a resource office at an immigrant-led community center in Durham. Rebecca graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine in 2005.

Fighting for a Fair Hearing

Every month, Antonio Castro Aranda meets hundreds of detained immigrants who can’t afford an attorney.  The challenge for him is to find a match, to place a case with a volunteer attorney.  Mr. Castro Aranda works for the Political Asylum / Immigration Representation Project, PAIR.  He is the Pro Bono Detention Manager.

Castro Aranda also arranges monthly “Know Your Rights” presentations at three Boston area detention centers.  These are county jails that contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrants.  He recruits volunteer attorneys and law students to give the presentations.  PAIR has developed a relationship with the facilities, and this helps with attorney access to clients for presentations and individual meetings.  An attorney can visit with a client any time.  “I’ve been told that ICE in Boston is more progressive, reasonable than other parts of the country,” says Castro Aranda.

He’s grown accustomed to many of the hurdles his volunteer attorneys and their clients face, preparing a case together.  One of the detention centers is about an hour and a quarter from downtown Boston.  The attorney has to make that trip for every client meeting and preliminary hearing.  A client can call an attorney from the detention center phones, but the attorney can not call the client.

The hearings are tough for the attorney-client relationship too.  In the Boston area, the preliminary “master calendar” hearings are video-conferenced; and the client is not in the same room as the Immigration Judge and interpreter.  The attorney has to choose between going to the detention center to sit with the client, or being present in the court room.  But Mr. Castro Aranda believes that  is better than the shackles and cuffs the clients had to wear for hours, each trip to and from the court, before the video system was installed.  ICE transports detainees in chains and cuffs, without any determination that a person is dangerous or likely to flee.  The Individual Hearing is in-person, which is important while the immigrant tells his or her story, and the judge makes a credibility finding.  Though they appear before the judge in handcuffs, at least the PAIR clients have a chance at a fair hearing, with an attorney present.

Mr. Castro Aranda, and volunteer pro bono attorneys across the country, work hard to provide representation.  But the overwhelming majority of immigrants in detention go through the removal process without counsel.   When asked if he gets discouraged, Castro Aranda says,  “The reward of being able to provide representation for a detainee in immigration proceedings is priceless, even if the case is not won.  You know you are contributing to a more just situation when the person has legal assistance to defend herself while the court makes essential decisions about her life.”

For more information about the PAIR Project, or to attend PAIR’s 2010 Annual Gala on Wednesday, June 9, in Boston, go to www.pairproject.org

Advocates meet with White House to discuss 287(g)

Attorney Marty Rosenbluth

The White House’s Office of Public Engagement invited immigration advocates to discuss law enforcement practices in local communities under 287(g) agreements.  Among those attending the meeting this week was Marty Rosenbluth, attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ). The Bond Fund is working with SCSJ in North Carolina to help the community respond to local police cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Only Arizona and Virginia have more 287(g) agreements than North Carolina.  The Bond Fund has helped eight SCSJ clients post bond and get out of immigration detention, so they can have their fair day in court.

In July 2009, the Obama Administration announced plans to review the Section 287(g) agreements; issue revised Memorandums of Agreement; set priorities to focus local police enforcement efforts on immigrants who commit serious or dangerous crimes; and require local law enforcement agents to pursue the criminal charges that caused the person to be arrested.  “Despite these changes, and all the promises and guarantees, the overwhelming majority of people are picked up on small, trivial crimes,” said Mr. Rosenbluth, “And people are still put into immigration removal proceedings before their criminal cases are even heard.”  According to the ICE website, only eight of the Section 287(g) MOA are new or modified since July; the remaining 59 agreements pre-date the promised “improvements.”

Not only do local police fail to prioritize the cases:  ICE and the Immigration Judges fail too.  On the morning of his meeting with the White House, Mr. Rosenbluth represented a woman who had been released on her own recognizance by the local authorities.  She was not considered a flight risk or a danger to the community.  However, ICE detained her, and set her bond at $7500!  She has been in the US more than ten years, and she is married to a US citizen with serious health problems.  The family can not afford the bond and now she will probably miss her state hearing on the criminal charges.  “It was good for the White House to hear what is happening locally,” said Mr. Rosenbluth.

Logistically, the Section 287(g) agreements are a nightmare in North Carolina for immigration practitioners and their clients.  “Cooperation” between local jails and ICE makes it nearly impossible for an attorney to hold a bond hearing at the local immigration court in Charlotte, NC, before his or her client is transferred to the immigration detention center in Georgia.   First, the client must pay the bail to be released from jail for the criminal charges, and then ICE takes custody and the immigration court has jurisdiction.  As soon as ICE has custody, it starts to arrange transfer of the person from the local county jail to the immigration detention center.  If the request for a bond hearing is too early, there is no jurisdiction.  If the request is too late, the client has already been transferred to Georgia.  “It is clear the Charlotte immigration court can take jurisdiction, when ICE has custody, even after the person is transferred.” argues Mr. Rosenbluth.  So far, the Charlotte  immigration court has declined to do so.   Mr. Rosenbluth observes, “Everyone knows it is much more difficult to get bond from the Immigration Judges in Atlanta.  The attorney practically has to prove the underlying case to get bond.”

Once a person is in immigration detention, and far from home, it is hard to gather the documents and arrange the witnesses to prove a case for bond or relief from removal.  A client narrowly escaped that fate last week when Mr. Rosenbluth appeared on his behalf in the Charlotte immigration court.  The client had paid his criminal bail, and the Bond Fund was standing by to help with his immigration bond.  Mr. Rosenbluth was waiting, in front of the Immigration Judge, while the ICE Trial Attorney called to confirm whether the client was in ICE custody, but not yet transferred to Georgia.  She had to check back later in the hearing to verify that ICE had him, and he was still in the Charlotte area.  The bond hearing proceeded, and the client will be able to bond out before ICE transfers him.

The problems with local enforcement of immigration law are overwhelming.  “With or without the promised improvements in enforcement,” said Mr. Rosenbluth, “the 287(g) program is untenable and it should be scrapped.”  This is the message he hopes the White House understands.