Tag Archives: access to counsel

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

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