Things That Matter

RAÍCES Just Used $2 Million In Donations To Free More Than 200 Migrants From Detention And Here’s Why

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a Texas-based nonprofit that advocates for immigrants, says it will pay $2.1 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release 200 immigrants detained across 20 states. The effort was made in conjunction with the National Bond Network. Using a network of organizations and volunteers, RAICES began making bond payments all over the country on Wednesday. 

The goal is, of course, to get immigrants out of the detention centers which have been criticized for their inhumane conditions but also to bring attention to the number of detained migrants. 

Some migrants must pay bonds for they can be released from custody.

“It’s ridiculous that people are coming to this country to seek safety, and they’re having to pay these outrageous amounts of money,” said Blake Vera, interim director of RAICES bond fund told CNN. “We’re stepping in to eliminate that financial obstacle.”

Over 47,000 migrants are currently sitting in ICE custody according to the agency. RAICES will make payments to facilities in San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Minneapolis, Boston, Hartford and Newark which will see the release of 200 migrants from 44 centers in 20 states. 

According to About Bail, migrants who get arrested and detained must pay a bond in order to be released from custody while they await their court appearance. While ICE does have the power to release the person without forcing them to pay, this often happens subjectively. 

“Bond decisions are based on an alien’s flight risk, and the potential threat to public safety,” ICE told CNN. “Each case is reviewed individually, taking into account factors like immigration history, criminal history and community ties.”

Bonds can range from $1,000 to $25,000 or more and unlike in criminal court, most migrants cannot receive bail.

“Today, we’re paying bonds, there’s some that are $30,000, some that are $20,000 or $10,000,” Vera told Newsweek. “It’s really unfortunate because you navigate this system and then a judge says, ‘okay, you have can have your freedom, but you need to pay $30,000 in ransom in order to escape this prison.'”

Once in custody, detainees must request a bail hearing with an immigration judge. Typically, more than half of these requests are denied. According to RAICES, only 30 percent of migrants who receive hearings are granted bail. 

Organizers say a bailout on this scale has never happened before. 

“This is the largest organized effort to pay this many immigration bonds in one day,” Vera told Newsweek. “We’re kind of in this weird state of being excited and anxious.”

Organizers believe what they called “Fall Freedom Day, was the largest effort to pay off migrant bonds in a single day ever. 

“Nothing like this has really happened before,” Vera said. The RAICES Bond Fund received contributions from 25,000 donors to make immigration bailout happen. 

Critics of the bonds believe they are often unnecessary and punitive, and that migrants who aren’t detained are more likely to thwart deportation and win their court cases. These migrants are better able to find lawyers and build a case more effectively outside of a cage. 

“Immigrants who are not detained and have attorneys are five times more likely to pursue relief and are nearly five times more likely [to] win their cases than those without attorneys, according to the AIC study,” the National Immigrant Justice Center said. “Detained immigrants are 11 times more likely to pursue relief when they have legal counsel and are twice as likely to obtain relief than detained immigrants without counsel.”

RAICES received national attention for raising $20 million in a week to reunite families.  

In 2018, RAICES garnered national attention after a California couple tried to raise $1,500 for the organization on Facebook. When the news cycle was still just unraveling the horrors of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, people were eager to pitch in and help any way they could. 

Dave and Charlotte Willner said that within a few days their little campaign was raising $4,000 a minute for RAICES. It even broke Facebook’s record for donations at the time. 

“What started out as a hope to help one person get reunited with their family has turned into a movement that will help countless people,” the Willners said in a statement.

One couple’s campaign raised $20 million for the nonprofit, enabling it to provide even more services to migrants in the U.S. Vera’s attitude echoed their sentiment saying this is everyone’s fight. 

“This is really a team effort to try to stand up to detention,” Vera said. “Otherwise we’re just kind of feeding into this cycle of paying ransom to ICE.”

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Guatemala Shifted Tactics With The Latest Migrant Caravan And Here’s Why

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Guatemala Shifted Tactics With The Latest Migrant Caravan And Here’s Why

Jose Torres / Getty Images

The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t reduced violence or poverty or many of the other reasons that people flee their homes in an attempt to reach the United States. In fact, in many places violence and poverty are at record levels as the virus leaves millions of people without work, access to medical care, or education.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that even though the Coronavirus pandemic continues to pose a serious health threat, thousands of Central Americans banded together in another caravan. However, this time it barely made it out of Honduras before being forced back by Guatemalan security forces.

The country has completely changed its approach to how it handles these ‘migrant caravans.’ Previously, the country had allowed many of them safe passage. However, under pressure from the Trump administration, the country’s president has decided a heavy-handed approach is better.

Under pressure from Donald Trump, Guatemala halted more than 3,000 migrants set for the U.S.

As a caravan containing roughly 3,500 Honduran migrants attempted to cross into Guatemala on their path to the United States, Guatemala halted their progress and ordered their removal from the country. This was a starch contrast to the migrant caravans of year past as many were allowed to seek asylum or even cross Guatemala’s border with Mexico.

In a televised message, Giammattei said Guatemalan security forces were able to “contain” the caravan, that according to the president was a factor in the transmission of the Coronavirus.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute (IGM), the caravan entered eastern Guatemala on Thursday, pushing over a military barrier setup along the border before splitting into groups to reach Mexico, which had already closed its borders in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival.

By Friday and Saturday, hundreds of Guatemalan police and military personnel set up roadblocks forcing migrants — including young children and people in wheelchairs — to turn back.

Guatemala’s president said the containment efforts were to protect the country from further Coronavirus infections.

Credit: Jose Torres / Getty Images

Shortly after the caravan entered Guatemala by foot and overwhelming the border security forces, the country’s president – Alejandro Giammattei – vowed to send them back to Honduras, citing his efforts to contain the pandemic.

“The order has been given to detain all those who entered illegally, and return them to the border of their country,” Giammattei said in a broadcast address to the nation. “We will not allow any foreigner who has used illegal means to enter the country, to think that they have the right to come and infect us and put us at serious risk.”

Giammattei issued an order that would suspend some constitutional rights in the provinces they were expected to pass through, apparently in order to facilitate detaining them.

“We are experiencing a pandemic in Guatemala which has cost us to control with months of efforts,” said the president, adding it was an “obligation” to reduce the risk of further contagion.

At the onset of the pandemic, Guatemala instituted a strict lockdown of the country, even closing its airports and borders to all travel. So far, the country of about 17 million has seen more than 94,000 Covid-19 infections and 3,293 people have died since March.

These so-called caravans have become more common in recent years as migrants band together for protection.

In recent years, thousands of Central American migrants traveling in large groups have crossed into Mexico, with the aim of reaching the U.S. border. In the U.S., these caravans have become a hot-button issue for political conservatives, including President Trump.

During the 2018 caravan that occurred close to the midterm elections, Trump threatened Mexico with steep tariffs and economic pain if the country didn’t do more to stop the caravans before they reached the U.S. – Mexico border. The country bowed to Trump’s demands and deployed its National Guard and more immigration agents to break up attempted caravans last year. They dispersed large groups of migrants attempting to travel together in southern Mexico.

The odds of a large migrant caravan reaching the U.S. border, already low, have grown increasingly slim over the past year. In fact, crossing into the U.S. legally is virtually impossible now thanks to inhumane policies implemented by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, attempting an unauthorized crossing into the U.S. is as difficult as ever.

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

Gerald Herbert / Getty Images

In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

Credit: Eric Risberg / Getty Images

Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

Credit: Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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