Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

Due Process for Detainees in the USA

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) will begin a review of human rights practices in the United States later this year.  Here is an excerpt from a report submitted this week to the UNHRC, by the National Immigrant Justice Center and 25 other organizations.  It highlights the primary concern of the Bond Fund:  it is difficult to have a fair hearing in immigration detention.

The Right to Due Process

Although U.S. law provides noncitizens a right to counsel in removal proceedings, the statute prohibits funding of counsel “at government expense.” Despite the efforts of NGOs and volunteer lawyers to fill this gap, 84 percent of noncitizens facing removal lack representation. Unrepresented noncitizens include vulnerable populations such as unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, torture survivors, or trafficking victims. For example, studies have found that asylum seekers are almost three times more likely to be granted asylum if they are represented by counsel than if they appear pro se in immigration hearings. By allowing noncitizens representation but at no government expense, the United States effectively limits representation to noncitizens who have, or are capable of locating, the financial resources to secure counsel on their own.

For many noncitizens, isolation in immigrant detention facilities compounds their inability to locate legal counsel. Noncitizens apprehended by immigration authorities are often moved to facilities hundreds or thousands of miles from the location of their arrest, even if they have well-established family and community ties there. Most immigrant detention facilities are located in remote areas, prohibitively far from cities where most pro bono attorneys or even private attorneys work. Even detained immigrants who manage to obtain representation may be transferred to immigrant detention facilities so far from their attorneys that they are forced to terminate the representation. In some cases, the rapid transfer of detainees between facilities creates situations in which attorneys cannot track and locate their own clients.

Noncitizens must have competent representation to have a fair day in court. Immigrants without legal counsel who pursue their cases in immigration court often face lengthy and arbitrary detention. The complexity of the system and the fear of prolonged detention results in noncitizens unintentionally signing away their rights and unknowingly agreeing to deportation. For example, noncitizens routinely sign stipulated removal orders, waiving their right to see a judge, without understanding that the legal consequences include deportation. Of the 80,844 stipulated orders of removal signed between April 1997 and February 2008, 94 percent were signed by immigrants who spoke primarily Spanish, and most had not been charged with a crime.

For the full report, go to:  http://www.immigrantjustice.org/resourcespolicy/detention/upr.html

Bond Fund to Tanisha Bowens: Why do you care?

Tanisha Bowens, CLINIC Attorney

The Bond Fund is asking advocates, donors, and others, “Why do you care about immigrants?”  In this interview we speak with Tanisha Bowens, attorney at CLINIC, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.  Until recently, Tanisha volunteered on the Bond Fund Steering Committee.  We appreciate her work on behalf of our project!

Bond Fund:  Did you know what you wanted to do after law school?

Tanisha:  Yes, I looked for internships and classes to learn immigration law.  I had a plan to look for work as an immigration lawyer at a nonprofit in Miami.  After I graduated, I worked at Catholic Charities and then the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Bond Fund:  Why were you interested in immigration law?

Tanisha:  It dates back to a trip I took in college.  A good friend was invited to speak at a conference in Canada.  She invited me to take the road trip with her, go to the conference, and stay with a local family.  Neither of us had much experience with travel – though she was here as a student from West Africa.  At the Florida airport, everything was fine.  When we changed planes in Houston, everything seemed OK, but I saw the airline staff keep something from my friend’s passport and staple it to the part of the ticket the airline keeps.  My friend did not seem to notice or care, so I didn’t give it much weight at the time.

After four days at the conference we rushed back to the airport to catch our flight.  But my friend was stopped at the gate, and ordered to go to another room to meet with an immigration agent.  The airlines personnel told me I could go ahead, but how could I leave my friend alone?  She looked so defeated.  She was quiet and startled as the immigration agent asked her about her passport and documents.  I was the one arguing with them, until the agent basically told me to shut up.  The agents were mean-spirited, and told my friend, “You are lucky we don’t arrest you.”

We were not sure what to do next.   We were so young, and of course we didn’t have any money or family with us to help.  So we called our host family in Canada.  The next day, my friend and I returned to the airport with our tall, white, male Canadian host.  He persuaded the agents to check with the airline in Houston for the passport document I saw the flight attendant misplace.  The immigration agents wouldn’t listen to me, but they listened to him.  We were able to confirm my friend’s lawful status as a student in the US, and re-book our flight home.

That experience – feeling so low and having someone look at us like we were dirt – I never wanted to be in that situation again.  It really influenced my decision to become a lawyer for immigrants.

The Next Generation

Late last year, local police in Florida stopped a vehicle for an alleged    improper turn at an intersection during morning rush hour restrictions.  The driver of the car was fair-skinned, and the three passengers were dark-skinned.  They were on their way to work together.  The local police did not arrest anyone; however, the police officer called the Border Patrol and held the individuals for over an hour because he suspected the passengers were in the country illegally. The local police was not deputized to enforce immigration law. The Border Patrol was aware that the police officer was unlawfully enforcing immigration law, yet decided to respond to the call. The Border Patrol arrested and detained the passengers, and they were put in removal proceedings.

Community organizers and lawyers from the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Corn Maya and the Jupiter Neighborhood Resource Center rallied to the defense of one of the young passengers.  They raised questions about the local police actions – was this a case of racial profiling?  Is it the job of local police to contact the Border Patrol about passengers in a traffic infraction?  Did the local police and/or Border Patrol respect the constitutional rights of the passengers?

The local organizers contacted the National Immigrant Bond Fund to help bond the passenger out of detention, and they recruited Rebecca Sharpless of the Immigration Clinic of the University of Miami School of Law to represent him.   Her students recently appeared in immigration court on his behalf.  Here is our interview with the students:

University of Miami law students Ben Quevedo (left) and Daniel Yibirin (right) on their way to immigration court.

Bond Fund: How did you get interested in immigration law?
Ben Quevedo: The law school clinic was an opportunity to do pro bono work, and a good opportunity to get hands-on training.  So much of the law school experience is confined to a classroom. The Immigration Clinic provides a chance to help real clients with a need for representation.
Daniel Yibirin: I came to this country as a child, and became a citizen five or six years ago, when I was a junior in college.  I knew the process first-hand and how stressful the process can be. Therefore, I’m interested in helping others with their immigration cases.

Bond Fund: What did you do on behalf of the client in this case?
Ben Quevedo: We identified several constitutional, statutory and regulatory violations that were committed during the arrest of our client, so we filed motions to suppress evidence and terminate proceedings based on those violations.

Bond Fund: Why did you file a motion to suppress?
Daniel Yibirin: We believe that the actions from the local police officer and from Border Patrol were unlawful for many reasons. Therefore, it was necessary for us to file a motion to suppress so that we could exclude the illegally obtained evidence. It was also important to file a motion to suppress to hopefully deter future Constitutional and regulatory violations.
Ben Quevedo: Every one in this country has certain constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer.

Bond Fund: What surprised you most about presenting a case in immigration court?
Daniel Yibirin: I had previously worked as a law clerk for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, so I was aware that the Court is often overburdened with a heavy caseload. However, I think it still surprises me the sheer amount of cases that are heard on a daily basis and how long it sometimes takes to get a final decision. We were present for two master calendar hearings but will not be in the clinic for the individual merits hearing.
Ben Quevedo: We hoped to have a resolution before the end of the school year, so it was anti-climatic for us and the client when the case was continued.  We won’t be with the clinic any more after this semester, but we will be following the case as the next student attorneys take over to see what happens next.

Bond Fund: Many thanks to you and all the people and organizations that pulled together to help on this case.

The Other Crim-Imm Conundrum: Bail and Bond

The Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla is an important step toward protecting the due process rights of immigrants.  However, there are many problems with the interplay of criminal and immigration law and procedure, including this catch-22 situation for people picked up by local police in North Carolina.  Tana Liu-Beers, attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at the North Carolina Justice Center explains:

County jails in North Carolina are full of people who should not be there and who do not have a chance to get out.

Normally, people arrested for all but the most serious offenses get criminal bail set for them. Certainly someone arrested for a noise violation, driving without a license, or even DWI would get a criminal bail set. She can then pay the bail and get out of jail while she waits for her hearing date. For people suspected of being undocumented immigrants, though, there is virtually no way for them to get out. Worse, the system traps immigrants in a vicious legal double-bind from which it is nearly impossible to escape.

North Carolina has a plethora of immigration enforcement programs, many of which deputize local law enforcement to serve as immigration agents. In addition to the well-known 287(g) programs currently operating in eight counties, a program called “Secure Communities” is rapidly spreading. Only the purchase of digital fingerprint technology stands in the way of this darling of the Department of Homeland Security being implemented in every jail in the state. Other federal immigration enforcement programs are also widely used in our state.

The upshot of all these programs is more arrests of immigrants for minor offenses like noise violations and traffic offenses. And a single arrest in a 287(g) or Secure Communities county, regardless of whether the charges are later dropped, is enough to put you on your way to deportation. If the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as ICE), thinks someone is in the country without proper documentation, it lodges a detainer. An ICE detainer asks the jail to hold someone so that ICE can pick her up. ICE usually declines to set immigration bonds or release people.

What this means is that the opportunity to get out on bail is usually worthless to someone suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. If she pays her bail, ICE picks her up and moves her as fast as possible to an immigration detention center in South Carolina, Georgia or Alabama. The family then loses the bail money, and the immigrant is treated as if she jumped bail and fled from the law. Nevermind that the only reason she missed her state hearing is because she was in immigration detention in another state.

The only way to avoid this catch-22 is to find an immigration lawyer who is willing to request an immigration bond hearing for you. Unfortunately, immigrants in removal proceedings have no right to appointed counsel, so they are on their own to find and pay for someone. The vast majority of detained immigrants never get to consult with an immigration lawyer, much less be represented by one. Even with a lawyer, detained immigrants still have to get over the hurdles of convincing an immigration judge to set bond and getting together thousands of dollars to pay the bond.

Without a chance to get out of immigration detention, immigrants are wise to not pay their bail and just stay in jail. In many cases, these are people who pose no threat to the community and little flight risk. The state court said as much when it set bail for them. But because they are suspected of being undocumented immigrants, we insist that they sit in our county jails with no chance to get out.