Bond amounts increased under Trump, and government lawyers are still asking immigrants to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be released

The cost of bonds – the payment used to secure the release of an immigrant from federal authorities – is out of reach for many people and straps many who borrow money to pay them with enormous debts.

It’s among the Trump-era policies that could be easily changed by the Biden administration through a simple memo, but in the past six months, bond amounts ordered by the Department of Homeland Security and issued by immigration judges have remained high.

Data collected by two academic and advocacy organizations show few to no differences in bond amounts issued by immigration judges over the first six months of the Biden administration. While bonds began to rise during the Obama administration, they rose considerably under Trump to the current levels.

Judges for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which oversees US immigration courts, make the ultimate decision on what amount they will accept for the release of detained immigrants, but only after other options are exhausted.

The DHS sets bonds, which are required by the federal immigration law to be $1,500 or more, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) can do the same. If the immigrant can’t pay the full amount of the bond, a hearing happens. At that point, a government attorney can suggest a bond amount higher than originally suggested.

Attorneys working with the National Bail Fund Network said four clients were issued bonds ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 between February to April 2021, and anecdotally, attorneys across the US said they continue to see high bonds.

Data from Syracuse’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (Trac), an independent and non-partisan data research organization, shows a similar trend.


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