National Immigrant Bond Fund closes its doors
via Pat Malone
The National Immigrant Bond Fund, of Public Interest Projects, closed its doors last week as its last dollars were loaned out to help a detained immigrant post bond. The Bond Fund partnered with local nonprofits across the country, to help immigrants obtain a fair hearing. A key component of the project was public education – trying to raise awareness about the due process rights of immigrants. In an immigration detention center, it is difficult to get an attorney, gather evidence, and secure witnesses for the court hearing. Detained immigrants may be transferred, without notice, to remote detention centers. Their court cases move too quickly to properly prepare a defense or an application for relief. If a person can pay bond, he or she is more likely to have a fair hearing.
The Bond Fund was launched as a direct response to the wave of aggressive enforcement actions by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), starting with a series of workplace raids in 2007, increasing in frequency and scope into the summer of 2008. As the raids died down, in the early days of the Obama administration, the project shifted to helping communities respond to local police cooperation with ICE (Section 287 g agreements).
“We helped many people who would have otherwise been deported, without a lawyer or a hearing,” said Bob Hildreth, who initiated and co-chaired the Bond Fund. More than 90% of the bonds posted are still pending after two and a half years, as people go through the immigration court process. Some have won political asylum, or relief from removal. Others have successfully suppressed the evidence that was unlawfully obtained to arrest or deport them.
The bond money was raised by individual donors, many of whom had a personal connection to the cause and knew people who had been unfairly deported or denied their due process rights. A number of national and Boston-based nonprofits were instrumental in launching and initially staffing the Fund. PAIR Project director and Bond Fund chairperson Sarah Ignatius says, “It was a tremendous effort, and we only wish we had the resources to help more detained immigrants.”