A PERSONAL STORY ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF BONDS FOR DETAINEES:
In February, 2017 a Guatemalan woman friend, Josefina or "Josie" was released from an Arizona detention center. I met Josie in November, 2015 as a volunteer CIVIC visitor. She had traveled north from a small town in Northeast Guatemala to find work to finance her father's dialysis treatment. She had family in the USA and hoped to live with them. She was kidnapped en route by a Mexican drug cartel and held for ransom. A cousin in Florida paid $8000 for her release.
As she told me her story, I realized that she should have an attorney as she might qualify for a T visa given to victims of human trafficking. A lawyer from a nonprofit law firm took her case. Later, I wrote a letter of support for her first bond hearing in 2016. Immigration bonds are like bail bonds - the applicant must demonstrate that they are not a flight risk and will keep their immigration court appointments.
Her bond was set at $20,000 for crossing the U.S-Mexico border without legal permission to enter. Her aunt and family raised $5000 and the attorneys contributed $15,000 and after 15 months in the private corporate detention center, she was released. That February night we had a celebratory feast of her favorite Guatemalan food: black beans, rice and tamales.
There are between 380,000 and 442,000 persons in detention centers, private and public annually. The per day cost per detainee is $90.43 which adds up to $2-5 Million per year of our tax dollars spent to keep legal permanent residents with families, asylum-seekers and victims of human trafficking in detention waiting either for bond hearing or a lawyer to assist with their case.
The importance of the Supreme Court decision is that detainees can no longer have a bond hearing and can be held indefinitely in detention until deported. Due to the fact that the immigration courts are overwhelmed with the numbers, ACLU lawyers estimate that a detainee could spend two to four years between detention and deportation. For more information on the Court ruling, www.pri.org/stories/2018-03-01/why-recent-supreme-court-decision-bonds-red-flag-immigrants-detention.
IMPLICATIONS OF THIS DECISION FOR DETAINEES AND OUR SYSTEM OF LAW:
How can we as U.S. citizens agree to a decision that deprives people of due process, a legal concept, at the core of our country's laws The U.S. Supreme Court decision is draconian and means many lives will be indefinitely put on hold. Meanwhile, the private corporations, GEO and CCA, earn millions due to the Congressional mandated quota, "34,000 detention beds daily" that must be filled and/or paid for by the government. In 2014 GEO earned $144 million and CCA, $195 million. These two private corporate detention center operators house 62% of all detainees.
WHAT CAN YOU OR I DO?
- Become a CIVIC visitor to a local detention center: www.endisolation.org/ This website will connect you to over 250 detention centers in the USA. In Oregon there is an active campaign to close the NORCO facility in the Dalles that contracts with ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to house the overflow from the GEO center in Tacoma, WA.
- Contact, call or write your Member of Congress to ask them to sponsor legislation to restore the legal right to a bond hearing in detention centers. This will probably be an uphill battle given the current state of partisanship but it is important that we as U.S. citizens who value our legal rights protest at the removal of due process for hundreds of thousands of persons, many of whom have not committed major crimes but have been caught up in a broken immigration system.
FINALLY, SHARE YOUR STORIES WITH ME OF PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY TIME IN DETENTION CENTER. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!