Fund Helps Release Three Families at Detention Center

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Jonathan Ryan of RAICES and Sister Patricia Connolly of Daughters of Charity deliver the bonds to the U.S. Deparment of Homeland Security Monday morning in San Antonio.

Thanks to community donations collected online over the last few weeks, three migrant mothers and their children detained at the Karnes County Residential Center will be released on bond while their asylum applications work their way through immigration court.

A coalition of immigration lawyers and advocacy groups--RAICES, the Akin Gump law firm, and the University of Texas’ Law School--have raised more than $8,000 online to post bond for these three families. The groups have a goal of raising $150,000 by the end of the year for the Karnes Family Bond Fund to be used to help post bonds for other detained women and children.

"Today, thanks to the donations of members of this community, and people around the country, we are able to pay the bonds for three mothers and their very young children so that they can get out of detention and have a better chance at pursuing their asylum claims before the immigration courts," said Jonathan Ryan, immigration attorney and executive director of RAICES.

According to Ryan, women and children at the 532-bed Karnes facility are being held without bond, or are given a high bond by immigration judges, even if they’ve expressed experiencing credible fear in their home countries and plan to apply for asylum in the United States. Ryan said this is a new policy implemented by the federal government.

“Initially these women are being given no bond by the Department of Homeland Security,” he said. “We, as attorneys, have to go to court and spend hours litigating each case just to get a judge to grant any immigration bond, over the objections and appeals of DHS.”

High bonds range from $3,000 to $7,500, amounts Ryan and other lawyers who represent the women and children say families can’t meet.

“These are bonds that were unimaginable to us in the immigration courts just months ago,” Ryan said. “The $7,500 represents the judge’s recognition that the government is declaring that these women or children are threats to national security. Even those bonds that we’re able to get from the judges, (the federal government) is appealing every single one of them.”

According to Nina Pruneda, spokesperson for ICE, “bond decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, based on considerations of risk of flight and public safety,” she said. “These cases are screened by ICE and detention has been deemed appropriate. Adults with children maintain important rights, including the ability to seek asylum, appeal to an immigration judge the denial of a credible fear finding, and the ability to seek legal representation.  The Justice Department and DHS have prioritized these cases and devoted resources such that asylum officers are on site to conduct credible-fear screenings.”

The Karnes facility was converted to a family detention center over the summer, and plans were made official by ICE last month to open a second detention center for migrant women and children. Ryan and other advocates have expressed concerns about detaining migrant women and children, especially after they’re traveled thousands of miles and fled violence in their home countries. Lawyers with the Mexican American Legal and Educational Fund have filed complaints alleging sexual assault taking place at Karnes, as well as inadequate access to resources.

The three mothers and children who will be released this week thanks to the groups’ fund will be received by local families through the RAICES Welcome Home program and then arrangements will be made to connect them with relatives.

Ryan said two other families his organization has represented have met posted bond and have been released so far, and his organization has other clients who are in the bond application process.

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