"Shackled" immigrants

"Shackled" immigrants

When a woman detained with her children at the South Texas Family Residence Center receives a positive finding that she has a credible fear of returning to her home country and therefore should be accorded a hearing before an immigration court,  she is eligible for release from detention. She also is eligible to ask the immigration court to set a bond which, if posted, would allow her to be released. 
Federal deportation officials discourage women from requesting bonds.  Once bonded out, the woman could chose to disappear into the vastness of the United States and forfeit the bond.  As a result, deportation officers offer a bond-eligible woman the opportunity to leave Dilley wearing an ankle bracelet.  An ankle bracelet holds a pod about the size of a clenched fist that contains a battery, wireless transmitter, position locator, and speaker.  When the battery runs down after eight hours, the speaker tells the wearer to stop for a recharge.  If removed, it immediately alerts federal monitors.  Women at Dilley refer to the ankle bracelet by the Spanish word for shackle—grillete. 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tell women they can secure immediate release and avoid a costly bond if they chose to wear the ankle bracelet.  They suggest that bond amounts most likely will be in the neighborhood of $5,000 and the Court would require a bond to be posted for each child, as well as the mother. They also note that the mother and her children will remain in detention for several more days as she awaits Court dates, bond determinations, and ultimately bond postings.
Many women chose to be released with the shackle.  Rather than wait around for a bond determination and securing the bond money from a family or friend, they chose the government’s form of indirect custody.
When one of the CARA clients decides to go for the bond, we volunteers whip into action.  With the client, we call her external resource and tell that person the types of documents that need to be put together to support a favorable bond finding before an Immigration Judge.  We give out a fax number to use in sending the documents.  That number resources a remote operation of CARA volunteers who in 24 hours assemble a packet to present to the Immigration Court in Miami, Florida that will hear Dilley bond claims.
Our remote bond team faxes the packet to the Immigration Court, to opposing counsel, and to us on the ground in Dilley.  A day later, we are in Court -- the CARA volunteer and client in Dilley, Texas at the detention facility and the Court in Miami, Florida, along with interpreter and staff.  Opposing counsel also is present.  And the case for the bond is presented.
I have now done four hearings.  My first client was granted a bond of $1,500, my next two bonds were $3,000 and my last a bond of $2,500.   These  bonds covered the children as well as the mother.  Thus, in the first case, a single payment of $1,500 would secure the release of the mother and her two children.
Following the hearings, we sit with our clients and call their external resources, telling them where to post the bond money.  We also discuss how they can get an open bus or airline ticket for their loved ones to go to their ultimate destinations from San Antonio where ICE agents will take them upon their release from Dilley. 
The four women and their children that CARA and I served soon will taste freedom in the United States.  And they will be unshackled.


Vard Johnson

Vard Johnson, a member of Old South Church in Boston, is an attorney focusing primarily on immigration law. He is a member of the Conference Board of Directors.

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