Opening Doors for Justice

Category: News (Page 1 of 2)

June 2020 Update

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
970-391-2547

50+ People Bonded Out

Good News !

With the help of our donors and allies, the Immigrant Freedom Fund has now assisted in bonding out 53 people from the ICE prison in Aurora that is operated by the for-profit corporation GEO. We are especially excited about the seven people we have bonded out this month. ICE and GEO have acknowledged that there are two confirmed cases of inmates with COVID-19 in the facility, and they had already let us know that staff members had tested positive for the virus. Family members who talk to people imprisoned there continue to hear that health care is inadequate and the guards do not wear masks consistently. Preventative materials, such as masks and sanitizers are not readily available to inmates. There is an atmosphere of feat that surpasses what we are experiencing on the outside.

Fortunately, the three people we bonded out this week each had family and allies with enough resources to contribute $1000 toward their bond. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had enough money to bond them all out. Two of the bonds were for $5000 and the third was for $7000. They are all home or heading home now.

Two of the people bonded out by us this week live in Utah. One has a wife there who has contracted the coronavirus, and he is eager to be back, at a distance, to take one worry off her shoulders. The other man going home to Utah was first apprehended when he was only 17. He was kept in one of the children’s prisons until he turned 18 and has been incarcerated for a year and a half. Fortunately, he is eligible for assistance from the Children and Family Services in Utah. Folks at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN) and Casa de Paz have been instrumental in securing his release and homecoming.

The other man, who was bonded yesterday, has been living in Colorado and had a joyous family reunion with his family when he left GEO yesterday evening. All are grateful for your donations that have made this possible.

Camp Out at GEO

Abolish Ice and Sanctuary Everywhere have established a protest camp outside of GEO in Aurora since the two cases of inmate COVID-19 were announced. Their demand is that all inmates be released. I visited the camp yesterday to lend support with a cake celebrating the fifty people the Immigrant Freedom Fund has bonded out. The camp is incredibly well organized and immaculate. Everyone partaking in cake had high spirits and joy in the work they are doing. Consider joining them for an afternoon or an evening when they have their meaning that our current bank balance is still at $3000 instead of working its way to the red.  We will undoubtedly need more contributions in order to bond out more people.

Please continue to send checks to the Immigrant Freedom Fund, 745 East 5th St., Loveland, CO 80537 or donate from our website.

Stay healthy as best you can during these weird times.

With hope for the future,

France Liefert
970-391-2547

April 2020 Update

Three People Bonded Out Today

We received a sizable check today from the Loretto Literary and Benevolent Institution as well as a one from our faithful donor, Mary Peckham. As always, we are grateful for all donations of whatever size. We cannot pursue this project without donations from all of you.

Before we bonded out people today, we were able to bond out a second transgender woman, who was transferred from New Mexico.  She has rejoined friends on the east coast with help from Casa de Paz.

The people bonded out today are a couple of local folks from Fort Collins and Greeley, Colorado and a man who lives with his wife and three children in Montrose, CO.  I’m so happy that the Immigrant Freedom Fund could reunite them with their families. The man from Fort Collins is only twenty-two and much missed by his mother in particular. The man from Greeley is needed by his wife and four kids and will appreciate having medical care available due to his seizures and fainting spells.  The man from Montrose is 46, and you can imagine that his wife will be glad to have him home to help with their three young sons.

We are grateful to the folks who referred these people to us, two law students from the University Denver Strum College of Law, an immigration lawyer from Louisville, KY and a volunteer from Casa de Paz in Denver, CO.

Other Good News

The next person we want to assist is a woman, who is anxious to get back with her children. They have been placed with relatives she does not trust to take good care of them. Her bond is $5000. A church friend of hers has raised half of that, and we hope to raise the rest with your help as soon as possible.

Please continue to send checks to the Immigrant Freedom Fund, 745 East 5th St., Loveland, CO 80537 or donate from our website.

Stay healthy as best you can during these weird times.

With hope for the future,

France Liefert
970-391-2547

More March 2020 Updates

One More Bonded Out

Your donations helped bond out the forty-third person the Immigrant Freedom Fund has assisted! This twenty-two-year-old man from Guatemala was brought to our attention by the Colorado Immigrant Resources Coalition (CIRC), of which we are a member. He has been living in Colorado Springs and was arrested by ICE at the end of January this year. His girlfriend contacted CIRC and raised $1500 toward his $6500 bond. The Immigrant Freedom Fund will pay her back this money once the immigration case is resolved and the Department of Homeland Security returns the bond money to us.

More Good News

ICE and GEO, the for-profit prison in Aurora, will be releasing all of the women in one of its pods this evening! There are about twenty women still held in detention in Aurora and all of them will be released. The heroes at Casa de Paz are working hard to pack bags of essentials for each woman and to enlist volunteers to get them to the airport and their new homes in the US.

And…

The woman who answers the phone at the office of Homeland Security in Denver says that no new detainees are being processed into GEO in Aurora. There are still some people being moved there from other detention centers if they are not suspected of contact with anyone who is infected by the coronavirus.

The Flip Side

One of the ICE officials at GEO Aurora has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Because of this, immigration court inside the prison was closed yesterday. One of our applicants was scheduled for his bond hearing. Since his case was not heard, he will have to stay in ICE jail until bond can be set.

Donations

We do not know what effects the pandemic will have on the ICE prison system.  We want to be ready to bond people out as they become eligible. Please donate what you can through a check to Immigrant Freedom Fund, 745 E. 5th St., Loveland, CO 80537 or use the Donate button on this site.

March 2020 Update

One More Bonded Out

This morning the wonderful Margaret Bobb bonded out a young man from Mexico who has been living in Colorado for a while. He had earned DACA status and has a US citizen fiancée and an eight-month-old US citizen child. He is grateful for your contributions toward his bond as well as to his family, who were able to supply $1000 toward the total of $5000. (When family members contribute to a person’s bond, the Immigrant Freedom Fund issues them a Memorandum of Understanding that the contribution will be returned to them once the case is resolved and the bond money has been returned to us.)

Another applicant we had from Jamaica was bonded out by his family, who came up with the total $6000.  We hope they did not take out an expensive loan.

Client Pending

A man who continues to wait for our assistance with bond is a twenty five year old from Mexico, who has also been living in Colorado. He was stopped by police for a traffic violation and turned over to ICE. His bond has been set at the ridiculous amount of $10,000. His family first sought a loan from a bondsman. They were told they needed a credit card with a $10,000 limit or the deed to a home as collateral. This is a family that lives in a mobile home park. Fortunately, the immigration lawyer they consulted told them about the Immigrant Freedom Fund.

Currently, we have a little over $8,500 toward this young man’s bond.

Coronavirus and GEO

Although no confirmed cases of COVID-19 inside the GEO jail have been reported, several Denver newspapers (Denver Post, Colorado Times Recorder, Colorado Independent) have reported that ten people who are suspected of being exposed to the virus have been isolated from the rest of the inmate population. Visitation to all inmates has been stopped. We have heard through our applicants that those incarcerated are living in fear of the epidemic sweeping the prison. GEO has done a notoriously poor job of healthcare before now, and there is no reason to believe they are doing any better in these circumstances.

In addition to donating what you can to the Immigrant Freedom Fund to bond as many people out as possible, please write to your representatives and ask that all immigrants being held by ICE for wanting to live in our country be released. According to a recent TRAC study at Syracuse University, 99% of immigrants show up for their hearings whether or not they have paid bond. There is no reason to hold people, especially with an epidemic threatening health and lives.

Google “how to contact your elected officials” and demand the release of immigrant prisoners.

Donate

In addition to needing $1500 toward our current applicant’s bond, we anticipate receiving more applications quickly over the next few weeks. Please donate what you can through a check to Immigrant Freedom Fund, 745 E. 5th St., Loveland, CO 80537 or use the Donate button on this site.

February 10 News

Dreamer Bonded Out

Our most recent bond was $5000 for a young father who lost his DACA status because he didn’t have the $500 to pay for his renewal when it was due. His wonderful family from the Caribbean was able to pay some of his bond, and your generous donations covered the rest.

Applicants Waiting

The next person we want to assist is a woman, who is anxious to get back with her children. They have been placed with relatives she does not trust to take good care of them. Her bond is $5000. A church friend of hers has raised half of that, and we hope to raise the rest with your help as soon as possible.

The next man who has applied for assistance is also from Mexico. He has been working on his immigration case since 2014. It was delayed because ICE lost his file for a while. He has three young children and a wife, who need him. We want to bond him out before his individual hearing, which is set for April 2 of this year.

Transgender  Women in Aurora

The ICE jail in New Mexico has recently sent several transgender women to the Aurora ICE jail. People who are transgender receive notoriously poor treatment while in detention. They face discrimination from other inmates, as well as from prison staff. We want to be ready with money if any of them become eligible for bond. Currently, they are being kept in a segregated area of the ICE prison and are not allowed to work with the rest of the inmates.

What Can You Do?

  • Please pass this email on to friends who might be interested in helping immigrants who have been arrested by ICE. Let them know that people who are bonded out have a much better chance of winning their immigration cases and may not have a decisive hearing at immigration court until well after the November elections.
  • Invite us to speak about the Immigrant Freedom Fund to your faith-based organization or any service club you belong to. Many people do not realize what immigrants are going through in detention and that raising bond is a way to help some of them.
  • Donate.

Gratitude

Thanksgiving!

Yesterday Kathy Hartman and I were able to bond out three people from the GEO detention center in Aurora, Colorado, thanks to continued generosity from the Immigrant Freedom Fund donors. Two of them are asylum seekers from Honduras in their early twenties, and the other is a twenty-two-year-old woman from Cuba. All together they needed $12,000 in bond money. The two men describe the horrendous conditions inside the GEO jail. They worked in the kitchen for $1.00 a day and needed to pay $2.50 for any phone call they made. They reported that the guards were brusque and cruel, even the ones who looked Latinx. No one would answer their questions. They are grateful to our donors for their freedom. They are reuniting with family and friends on this holiday when we celebrate gratitude in the United States.

The steering committee of the Immigrant Freedom Fund is deeply grateful for the opportunity you give us to bond out immigrants. No one belongs in immigration jail.

Partner Organizations

We are also grateful to the organizations that support people before and after we’re able to provide bond.  One is the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, RMIAN, a group of lawyers who co-ordinate pro bono services to people in the ICE jail.  They frequently refer people to us who cannot afford their outrageously high bonds. They also walk us through problems that come up while we bond people out.  You can read more about them at https://www.rmian.org 

The other organization that we could not operate without is Casa de Paz, a hospitality house in Denver.  Sarah Jackson, the founder and director, trains volunteers for Casa once a month. She has been generous in sharing her stage with the Immigrant Freedom Fund, as well as letting Casa volunteers know when the Immigrant Freedom Fund needs help.  You can read about Casa de Paz here:  https://www.casadepazcolorado.org

As always, we depend on donations to continue this work.  Please give what you can.

Number 23 Bonded Out!

Another asylum seeker from Honduras is having a good evening thanks to the donors to the Immigrant Freedom Fund. Special thanks go to the the Sisters of Loretto Community and Maureen Flanigan of the Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church in Littleton, CO.  The young man, who fled Honduras, is twenty-two years old.  He’ll now be able to join his sister in the South of the US to plan his immigration case with her support, better access to legal counsel and with more time to prepare since his case will be transferred to an immigration court close to where he will be living.
 
Immigration Hearings
 
People frequently ask how the Immigrant Freedom Fund decides the  order in which to bond people out. When we first started bonding people out last April, it was easy; we just bonded them out in the order they applied for assistance. Due to our stance that no one belongs in immigrant jail, we helped them as they applied.  Now that we are better known and have more applications, we bond people out according to when their individual hearings are coming up.  Hearings held in ICE jail are notoriously harder to win than hearings outside of ICE jail.  We are particularly sensitive to watching for hearings inside ICE jail being moved forward, hoping that we can activate enough donors to help people avoid rushed case hearings inside detention.
 
A few times we have made an exception to this procedure.  When a pro bono lawyer let us know that her client was on suicide watch, we moved him forward in line.  We also hurried to bond out a young man who had serious medical problems that were not being addressed inside the GEO jail in Aurora.
 
Applicants Waiting for Assistance
 
Three men have been waiting weeks for assistance with bond, and we just received an application for assistance for a young woman as well, whose family can help with $1000 of her $3000 bond.  The total amount we need to bond all of them out is $14,500.
 

Hello, Fellow Justice Seekers!

Another Immigrant Bonded Out

With your donations we have bonded out the 21st immigrant to apply for assistance from the Immigrant Freedom Fund. Dhi Good, Irene Thomas and Kathy Hartman are the heroes who formed a relay team to get the bond to GEO for this young man. His talented lawyer, Laura Lunn of the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN), persuaded the judge to set his bond at the lowest point allowed, $1500.
 
This 26-year-old man is originally from Mexico and has been incarcerated in immigrant jail since Sept. 2018.  That’s too long.  Any time in immigrant jail is too long. 

Volunteer Opportunities

The Immigrant Freedom Fund needs volunteers to act as obligors. The obligor is the person who delivers the bond in money orders or cashiers checks to GEO jail in Aurora. Until we open the Immigrant Freedom Fund bank account in Aurora, there is no way for us to transfer bond money electronically to obligors in Aurora and Denver. Our fiscal sponsor, the Namaqua Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Loveland is working on providing all the documents required by the bank to open the account as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.
 
Meanwhile, if you can assist us in the driving between Loveland and Aurora and in acting as obligor, which takes around two hours, please respond to this email.
 
And let us know if you are available to sign onto our new account in Aurora once we have it.  We need volunteers in Aurora who can access the account to procure the cashiers checks and get them to those who act as obligors.

As Always, Donations Needed

We are coming to the bottom of our bank account right now in spite of a steady, lovely trickle of donations coming in through our website.  Please donate what you can at www.immigrantfreedomfund.org or send a check to Immigrant Freedom Fund, 745 East 5th St., Loveland, CO 80538.
 
With hope for the future,
Francey Liefert
970-391-2547
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