Tag Archives: Southern Coalition for Social Justice

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.

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.

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.

The Bond Fund in North Carolina: One person’s story

Courtesy united-states-map.org

The Bond Fund recently started working with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham, North Carolina on a joint project.  Together we help immigrants who are arrested by local police on minor charges and referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for detention.

Here is the story of one client, Arnulfo:

Arnulfo was sixteen years old when he was taken from his home and inducted into the Salvadoran Civil War, a conflict which lasted 12 years and left 75,000 dead. Unable to find work in war torn El Salvador and eager to escape the growing gang violence there, Arnulfo came to the U.S. with temporary protected immigration status.

But he has never been the same since the war, said his sister Aida: he struggles with scizophrenia, thoughts of suicide, alcohol dependence, and he has been admitted to mental health facilities multiple times.

Arnulfo was living and working in Maryland when he was robbed and lost his legal papers, which he was then unable to renew. He came to North Carolina and was living with his sister when the police came to the house because of a noise complaint.

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Aida was beside herself when her brother was detained. “As his older sister, I always feel a responsibility to take care of him,” she said. She knew she couldn’t afford bond on her own — $5000 — and thanks God that she found the Bond Fund. “I’m so happy being able to spend time with my brother and knowing that he’s alright,” she said, “I know being in jail was not good for his already fragile mental health.” [Reposted from Southern Coalition for Social Justice]

Read more about the project in the Catawba Valley Citizen.