Listen to National Public Radio’s report here (click arrow below):
Sarah Ignatius of the Policital Asylum/ Immigration Representation Project, and NIBF Steering Committee member, writes to National Public Radio regarding their segment on bail:
Last night NPR reported that two-thirds of the nation’s jails are filled with non-violent offenders who cannot afford to pay their bail, costing American taxpayers $9 billion in 2009. Jails hold people who have been accused, but not convicted, of a crime. In addition to being incredibly expensive, NPR reports, the system is unfair to the poor people who can’t make bail: there are less consequences for crimes if a person can bail out.
When it comes to immigration, the practice is even worse. Hardworking immigrants whom Immigration Judges have found not to be a flight risk or a danger to the community nevertheless end up with bonds too high to pay. The national average exceeds $5,000 each. Yet
these people are not charged with a crime, often are sole wage earners in families with US citizen children and if released from immigration detention would do no more than return to their families and communities. Locking them up under high bonds does little more than break
up families, cost taxpayers huge sums for needless detention and prevent immigrants from having a fair day in court. It is difficult to obtain an attorney, hard to gather evidence or put together a case, and there is always the risk of transfer to a far-away detention center. Unlike criminal court, immigration court does not appoint an attorney to a person who can not afford one.
Thank you NPR for raising these important issues about detention, fairness, and the costs to the American taxpayer! We hope your series
will further explore the special interests that keep people in detention, and the success of alternatives to detention. At the National Immigrant Bond Fund, we help people post bond, to give them the chance to have a fair hearing. Fairness is an important value in our country that we must all fight to uphold!