Category Archives: Recipients

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.

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Bond Fund client wins VAWA case

Last week Romy Lerner won a hard-fought victory on behalf of her client, a Bond Fund recipient. Ms. Lerner is an attorney at FIAC, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center; and her client is now a Lawful Permanent Resident.

“This is an unusual case for us,” says Bond Fund Chairman Bob Hildreth, “We generally focus on community-wide response to immigration enforcement tactics such as raids, or cooperative agreements with local police. But sometimes an individual’s circumstances are so horrendous that we must step forward.”

Ms. Lerner’s client “Marie” came to the United States from Haiti as a very young child. She was physically and verbally abused by her mother, and pushed out of the house when she was only 14. Before long, Marie was a teenage mother with an abusive partner. She had no legal status in the US, even though her mother, or the father of her children, could have applied on her behalf.

Photo by Rennett Stowe

The father was violent toward Marie, and created an unsafe environment for their children. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) took the children from their home. The situation grew more desperate when, in a separate matter, Marie was picked up by local police and referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE detained her and set a bond she could not pay.

“It was a catch-22 situation,” said her attorney Ms. Lerner, “she could not appear in family court to get custody of her children while she was in ICE detention, and it would be hard to prove her immigration case without custody of the children. She needed to get out of detention to protect her parental rights and apply for cancellation.”

Ms. Lerner believed her client had a strong case for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) cancellation of removal, based on the abuse she had suffered as a child and with her partner. DCF had records documenting Marie’s violent childhood.

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The Bond Fund loaned the money for Marie to get out of ICE detention. With Ms. Lerner’s assistance, she now has lawful status, and permission to work in the United States. Ms. Lerner says, “She is getting her life back together, looking for work, and endeavoring to take care of her young children, now ten, nine, and seven years old. Its been a tremendous struggle, but the help of the Bond Fund made everything a little easier.”

“We could not have done it without the people who support the Bond Fund,” said Mr. Hildreth. Now that Marie’s immigration case is closed, the bond money will be returned to the Fund, and available to help the next person.

What a Difference a Bond Makes: Dignity and Due Process Two Years after the Van Nuys Workplace Raid

How has the National Immigrant Bond Fund assisted individuals affected by the immigration raid in Van Nuys on February 7, 2008?

  • Antonio Bernabe (CHIRLA): “This bond basically gave the people a right to the process, and that was very important”
  • Nora Preciado (NILC): “It allowed them to stay and seek a day in court, to be able to see what remedies they had available to stay in the country.”

Special thanks to CHIRLA for help with still images.

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“Even though I won in the end, I still lost so much of my life, and my children’s lives. Is that just?”

Matt Adams of NWIRP

Matt Adams of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project writes about his experience with the Bond Fund and his client Jose Prieto:

His Story. Mr. Jose Prieto first came to the United States in 1976 on a visa to study at the Southern Oregon University. In 1981 he became a legal permanent resident. Twenty five years later, in February of 2005, he was arrested at his home by immigration authorities, based on his only offense, a misdemeanor conviction from 1989. It was a complete shock to be arrested and placed in immigration custody sixteen years later. In 1989, his conviction was not considered a deportable offense. The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) helped him argue that the old misdemeanor conviction should not make him deportable now. It was unfair to go back in time and apply new changes in the law.

Jose Prieto

Detention. Mr. Prieto was stuck in the immigration prison in Tacoma while he fought his case. Prior to his detention he had worked for 14 years as a social worker for the State of Oregon. For the last ten years he had a second weekend job as an outreach worker to the homeless. Still, the government refused to release him or give him a bond hearing. As a result, he lost his home, lost his job, and worse yet, was separated from his eight year old daughter and eleven year old son.

Silvia Rivera of NWIRP

Freedom. With the help of his lawyer at NWIRP, Mr. Prieto went to federal district court to get an order for a bond hearing. A bond was initially set at $15,000 and later reduced to $10,000. He had already been locked up by immigration for so long that he had no resources left to pay the bond. His friends in the community raised $5,000 and the National Immigrant Bond Fund agreed to pay the other $5,000. Mr. Prieto was finally released on bond, after three and a half years of separation from his family.

Matt Adams

Victory. On January 19, 2010, almost five years after he was first arrested, the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that his misdemeanor conviction did not qualify as a deportable offense. His attorney, Matt Adams stated, “it is a big relief that he is finally able to move on and try to rebuild his life. Many people can not bear to last three or six months locked up, let alone three and a half years. Even Mr. Prieto at that point was getting ready to give up on his case. Many people who have strong cases give up because they can’t bear the suffering of being locked up for prolonged periods.”

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Dignity and Due Process. Mr. Prieto is grateful to the NWIRP, the National Immigrant Bond Fund, and his friends who paid the bond for his release. Still he notes, “If ICE wants to deport me, that’s fine if they can show they have a real basis, but they shouldn’t keep me locked up during that long process. In my case, even though I won in the end, I still lost so much of my life, and my children’s lives. Is that just?”

Bond Fund helps Ramona Estrada keep her family together

Jacobo Jr. and his parents, celebrating his first birthday.

Ramona Estrada was born and raised in Texas.  Her son Jacobo Diego, Jr. was born March 21, 2008 in Laurel, Mississippi.  Baby Jacobo lived with his mom, and his dad, Jacobo Sr., who worked at the local factory to support the family.   When Jacobo Jr. was six months old, Immigration agents raided the Howard Industries factory, and put Jacobo Sr. in immigration detention.

Jacobo Diego Sr. is a citizen of Mexico.   He was put in removal proceedings.   “I couldn’t believe I couldn’t help him in any way,” said Ramona.  “I thought because I was a US citizen I could help.  I couldn’t believe the law was that way.”  Ramona had to take care of everything alone, with her newborn son.  On the weekends, she drove four hours each way with the baby, to visit Jacobo Sr. in detention.  Ramona worked, paid the bills, paid the rent, and paid a babysitter.  “I didn’t go out much.  It was too hard to see families together.”

After two months in detention, Jacobo Sr. was in bad shape.  Something at the detention center bit his leg,and he was put in isolation.  He was in pain, confined, and it was nearly impossible to meet with a lawyer to discuss his deportation case.  He missed his baby.  Ramona recalled, “One time he called crying, and I knew I had to figure something out.  That’s when I found El Pueblo, and the Bond Fund.”  The National Immigrant Bond Fund helped Ramona and Jacobo pay half their bond, and Jacobo came home to be his family while his case was pending in immigration court.

Paying the bond allowed Jacobo the opportunity for a fair hearing, and gave the family time to organize their lives.  In the end, the immigration judge ordered Jacobo to leave the United States.  He and his family left on August 4, 2009.   Ramona said, “I’ve never been to Mexico.  My father came to this country for better opportunities.  He doesn’t want me to go there.  I am doing this for my son, to keep the family together.”

“The Bond Fund helped me have a fair hearing for my case.”

Guadalupe spent 28 days in a Texas immigration detention center:  “I worked at Bianco (New Bedford, MA factory) from 7:30 in the morning until 11:00 at night.  When the immigrations agents raided the factory, they came in fast, yelling and cuffing people.  I just watched – what could I do?  They kept us for hours in the cold factory, and threw us food to try to eat with our hands cuffed.  They took away our cell phones and our personal items.  They put us on a bus to Ft. Devon, and took our fingerprints at 3:00 in the morning.  Then they bussed us again, this time to an airport.  Even on the plane, I didn’t know where I was going.  It was the immigration detention center in Port Isabel, Texas!  At the detention center, the immigration agents kept telling me to sign some papers.  They said I was crazy to fight my case, and that I would be stuck there a long time.  I worked for $1 a day cleaning the bathrooms to earn money to buy a calling card, and I called a friend for help.  The Bond Fund helped me pay the bond, so I could go home, find a lawyer, and have a fair hearing for my case.”

New Bedford “I couldn’t understand why Immigration would use these tactics.”

Juan:  “Most of the people caught up in the raid at New Bedford were indigenous people from Guatemala.  We are 99% orphans – our parents were killed in the early 1980’s, when the Guatemalan government targeted indigenous people.  We came here because we heard about “human rights” in the United States.  I saw the TV news coverage of the raid, with images of people boarding the plane for Texas in shackles, and I couldn’t understand why Immigration would use these tactics.”

Juan’s wife Juana G. spent eight days in a regional detention center until the Bond Fund helped them pay the bond.  Now it is easier for her to meet with her lawyer and prepare her case.