Immigration Bond Fundraiser

Photo source: ICE

Photo source: ICE

Four days a week folks who are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are brought before the court. Many who are facing return to their country of origin ask for nothing more than the opportunity to cash their paychecks, sell their cars, and put their affairs in order before departure. Others request the opportunity to gain asylum here in the US as a result of their extended residence, threat of harm if they return to their country of origin, or a handful of other reasons.

But for both of these groups there is a significant obstacle they face, the price of cash bail.

While not all individuals detained by ICE are offered the option, a comparatively small number are given the chance to leave ICE’s jails if they can pay a sum of money. Known as bond, this money is designed to ensure that they will appear at future court hearings. For some it is a chance to put their affairs in order and cash pay checks before returning home, for others it dramatically increases their chances of gaining asylum and staying in the US. The difference between making bond and being stuck in detention makes a huge difference for every detainee. It is the difference between the possibility of being reunited with family, gaining a chance to stay here, or being returned to jail for months or years while your case works it’s way through a thoroughly broken immigration system.

A coalition of community organizations is responding to this intolerable state of affairs by piloting a fund that will pay bond for those stuck in ICE detention and unable to secure release. Once those individuals are released we will ensure that they are connected with the support they need to complete their cases. When those cases resolve we will collect that money and put it toward freeing others. Such a bond fund will not solve all of the challenges of our broken immigration system, but it offers us a way to push back on an increasing aggressive detention system that seeks to forcibly remove members of our communities.

FAQs About ICE Detainees

1. How does the crisis is at the border affect us here in Minnesota?

A: Not only are detained asylum seekers being transported up here (several Cubans, Venezuelans, and Central Americans are currently being held at Sherburne County Jail), but many children who were separated from their parents are staying in Minnesota,

while their parents are held in detention all over the country. There are over 400 non-citizens detained in Minnesota, including an increasing number of asylum seekers who were detained at the southern border. 

2. Who are you trying to help?

A: Currently there are two young men from Honduras being held in San Diego and Minnesota that we are trying to bond out. (The man in San Diego has a sponsor here locally and would be appearing in court in Minnesota).  They are both fleeing from persecution and violence. 

We are also raising money to help pay the bond for a young woman "Tia Nuestra," the Central American woman who bravely brought her nieces to safety after they faced years of threats to their lives and safety, only to be torn from her nieces at the Border and detained in Border Patrol custody without access to counsel or telephone contact with family. Her niece appears here in an interview.

3. Why are people detained? 

A: ICE has broad discretion when deciding whether to hold a person in detention. There is no requirement that a person must have a criminal record or be found dangerous to be held in ICE detention.

The vast majority of people held in immigration detention who are seeking asylum have no criminal convictions at all, and many are fleeing gang violence in their home countries. In the past, the federal government would regularly release those who have passed credible fear interviews rather than detain them.  Persons with criminal records generally have only misdemeanor and traffic convictions.  


4. What impact does releasing people from immigration detention have on public safety?

A: Research shows that immigrants have a lower criminal incarceration rate and there are lower crime rates in the neighborhoods where they live. However, getting released from immigration detention is not easy, and the law over-imprisons people. Only a percentage of people ever have the chance to get released or can qualify for a bond. Certain crimes, including shoplifting, and possession of marijuana, will make a person ineligible for bond or release from detention. Even the manner of arrival can affect whether a person can ask for bond. People who present themselves at the border cannot ask for a bond.  

Even if a person qualifies for a bond, they must prove to an ICE officer or Immigration Judge that they would not be dangerous or a flight risk.  Unlike in criminal courts, the default is detention, not release. 

5. What is the impact of release on the people themselves?

A: Detention can often be inhumane. While the Minnesota County Jails that hold ICE detainees do not rise to what the Inspector General has called a humanitarian crisis, nonetheless conditions at Sherburne County Jail has prompted protests,  and the teenager was also sexually assaulted in Sherburne.

Often the difference between detention and release is the difference between winning a case (which can be life or death) and losing, as those in detention have a harder time finding a lawyer and being able to access crucial evidence to support their claims. 

6. I am not a lawyer. I’ve marched and called my congressmen.What else can I do? 

The most effective way to help is to get people out, and the fastest way to get people out is to help us pay their bonds.  Immigration bonds can be extremely expensive (the average immigration bond set in Minnesota Immigration courts is $5,000.) Bonds are not set with any consideration on the ability to pay. MFF does not believe freedom should depend on $$ - personal or family wealth.

7. Who have you helped?

Just in the last two months, we have bonded out a trafficking victim, and a longtime permanent resident who won his case but was forced to be detained while ICE appealed.  We have paid over $70,000 in immigration bonds freeing more than 20 people, that included mothers, long time residents, refugees and those seeking protection from persecution and torture.

Because of the high cost of immigration bonds, MFF has always had a waiting list of people who cannot afford to pay for immigration bond, and that MFF is unable to help. 

If you’d like to support the campaign you can make a donation on our “Donate” page.