53 Bonded Out!

Through the generosity of our donors, the Immigrant Freedom Fund bonded out seven people in May and one more in June so far. The total number of ICE prisoners we have assisted now stands at fifty-three, and many more people have benefited from having their fathers, sons, husbands and community members released. All were prisoners in the ICE jail in Aurora that is run by the for-profit corporation GEO. Several members of the GEO staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since March, and now several inmates have also tested positive for the virus. Our work assisting people with immigration bond is increasingly urgent now that GEO is a breeding ground for the coronavirus.

Since our current federal administration has severely curtailed entry by asylum seekers into our country through Mexico, many of those applying for bond assistance are people who have been living in the United States for years. Men we bonded out in May were raising families here and contributing in other ways to their communities. Most of them live in Colorado and Utah and have returned to their families and friends. The immigration hearings that will determine whether they stay legally in the United States are not likely to occur before next year or the year after since immigration courts have backlog that has grown even bigger due to the coronavirus. Our hope is that there will be a seismic change in immigration policy at the federal level before the hearings take place. (Please vote in November.)

Happily, we also bonded out two young men who arrived at the border a few years ago seeking asylum as unaccompanied minors. They were apprehended and imprisoned by ICE in youth camps until they turned eighteen. When they reached that magic age, they were moved to GEO in Aurora. They both waited many months to have their bond hearings. I am grateful that our donors made it possible to bond each of them shortly after bond was granted. One of their bonds was $3000 and the other was $5000.

We were hopeful about assisting in paying bond for a young Ethiopian asylum seeker as well. He was imprisoned by ICE at the Otay Mesa facility in California, which is run by another for-profit corporation, CoreCivic. Ironically, he is trying to join his family in Aurora, Colorado. ICE set his bond at $10,000 in March. When we joined with a California group to pay the bond, ICE refused to accept it because they claimed the man had not provided adequate identification papers. (We cannot help but wonder how they justify holding someone when they are supposedly unsure of who he is.) He lost his passport as he traveled from South America through Mexico and could only provide a copy of it through his family here. A copy of his birth certificate was also provided by his family, but that did not satisfy the ICE office at Otay Mesa. I tried to get help from him through the Congressman of his proposed home in Aurora, Jason Crow, who is sympathetic to those imprisoned in GEO. His office asked for signed permission from the prisoner to investigate his case. I sent the permission forms to our Ethiopian applicant, but he never received them. This was not surprising because Otay Mesa is notorious for not delivering inmates’ mail. The young man is terrified of staying in Otay Mesa. As you may have read, an immigration prisoner died there of COVID-19 at the beginning of May. The people in California, who are helping him, managed to procure a form of identification that is acceptable to ICE. Now ICE says that the man’s bond is no longer valid and that he will have to go before an immigration judge to try to get a new bond set. As I write this, the young man continues to wait in Otay Mesa for his bond hearing to be scheduled.

We have additional applicants who are waiting for their bond hearings in GEO in Aurora. They have been referred by the Colorado Immigrant Resource Coalition (CIRC) of which we are a member, by the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN), which provides legal aid to those in detention, and by themselves as our phone numbers have been passed on through prison generosity. A twenty-four-year-old man has already had his bond set at $20,000! Typical bonds have been $3500, $5000 and $7500 lately. We are eager to have your contributions to cover the $20,000 bond and the bonds which will be set next week.

As always, the Immigrant Freedom Fund depends on contributions to assist people with their immigration bond. Please donate what you can whenever you can and let your friends and contacts know about our work.  Please continue to send checks to the Immigrant Freedom Fund, 745 East 5th St., Loveland, CO 80537 or donate via PayPal from our secure website.

With hope for the future,

France Liefert