Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bond Fund Aids Illegal Immigrants with Court Costs

From Forbes:

By Gillian Gaynair

August 11, 2008

WASHINGTON - Some illegal immigrants arrested in workplace raids by federal agents will now have a resource to help them post bond and have a day in court.

The National Immigrant Bond Fund will launch a fundraising campaign and make its national debut during a news conference at Casa de Maryland in Silver Spring on Monday. The immigrant advocacy group helped workers seized in a recent federal raid in Annapolis access the bond fund, which was formalized about three months ago.

Here's how the fund works: Illegal immigrants arrested in raids who do not have any outstanding criminal violations can apply for financial assistance. Churches, legal organizations or groups such as Casa help facilitate their requests. The fund provides half the bail money and immigrants must pony up the rest.

"The chance of somebody in essence absconding is by and large eliminated because they have their money invested in their freedom as well," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum in Washington and a member of the fund's committee.

The fund aims to ensure that immigrants have access to the court system. Advocates say immigrants are too often sent directly into deportation proceedings without an opportunity to argue their case. They say the fund is also a way to build public opposition to raids, keep families together and bring another voice into the debate for immigration reform.

Financial oversight of the fund is handled by Public Interest Projects, a New York-based nonprofit.

The fund grew out of a series of efforts by 57-year-old Boston financier Bob Hildreth, owner of International Bank Services Inc., which buys and sells loans worldwide.

Hildreth said he gave $130,000 last year to help detainees post bond after a raid at a New Bedford, Mass., factory by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The detainees' families pitched in $100,000.

Hildreth contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars more this year after following workplace raids, including one on June 30 at Annapolis Painting Services company, where federal officials arrested 45 employees on administrative immigration violations.

The financier studied Spanish in Mexico as a college student, and over the decades he has contributed millions to establish education and citizenship programs for immigrants in Massachusetts, among other initiatives.

Through the bond fund, Hildreth said he wants to reach out to those who support humanitarian and immigration rights and who believe, like him, that immigrants have long contributed to America's economic health. "As long as these raids occur, we will respond," he said.

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