FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Rebecca Fontaine or Marty Rosenbluth, Immigration Unit, SCSJ
(919) 323-3380×116 or (919) 949-9050
Rebecca@scsj.org or Marty@scsj.org
Pat Malone, Director, National Immigration Bond Fund
(212) 781-2140; firstname.lastname@example.org
New Bond Fund Helps NC Immigrants Get Fair Day in Court;
SCSJ works with the fund to help low-income immigrant families
Durham, NC – A new Bond Fund is helping immigrants who are arrested post bond and access legal services. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice partnered with the National Immigrant Bond Fund to provide zero interest matching loans to immigrants who cannot afford to pay a full bond. The fund was created from a pool of private donors committed to protecting dignity and due process for immigrants. Since its inception in September, SCSJ has used the fund to help seven families.
Undocumented immigrants do not have the same right to due process and a fair trial afforded U.S. citizens. If immigrants cannot post bond immediately after entering Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, it can dramatically affect their ability to get justice. Detainees are then accelerated into deportation proceedings, which are difficult to contest because they do not have the right to an attorney if they cannot afford one, face language barriers, and lack access to documents they need to build their case since they are in custody.
Unlike bonds in the criminal courts, most families must pay immigration bonds in cash, rather than being able to pay 10% to a bond agency. Failure to post bond immediately can also result in a rapid transfer of detainees to courts outside of the state in which they were arrested.
This was the case with Samuel, who was arrested in Greensboro and rapidly transferred to the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. “Everyone there was like me: we had no money and no resources. They treated us worse than criminals. They treated us like animals,” he says, pointing to the freezing temperatures and the lack of adequate food and water, clean clothes or soap for bathing.
In some cases, detainees have sufficient grounds to petition to be able to stay in the U.S., but are unable to explore those options and build their case while in detention. Even when these options are not available, being able to post bond and spend a few additional months with their family or being able to sell their property and prepare to return to their home country makes a huge difference.
When Edwin Aly Ramirez was arrested while translating for a friend in Greensboro, his first thought was of his wife and two children — with another on the way. “I thought I would never get to meet my newborn,” he said. Edwin came here at thirteen from war-torn El Salvador, “…this is my country. I don’t want to leave.”
“When immigrants are detained without being able to pay their bond, they are denied the right to fully defend their right to stay in this country, which often unjustly results in their being deported without being able to see their families or tie up outstanding obligations,” says SCSJ staff attorney Marty Rosenbluth. “The Bond Fund is an important step in combating the injustice and inequities in the immigration system.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice empowers minority and low-income populations to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights.
115 Market St., Suite 470; Durham, NC 27701; www.scsj.org