Cost Of Immigration Bonds Skyrockets In Arizona

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, August 1, 2019 - 11:34am
Updated: Thursday, August 1, 2019 - 3:53pm

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LAUREN GILGER: The median cost of an immigration bond in Arizona today is $12,000. That marks an astronomical increase since 2006, when the median bond was set at just $60, according to data from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks a variety of immigration trends. Mo Goldman is an immigration lawyer in Tucson who has seen bonds climb higher and higher firsthand, and he joins us now to tell us more about it. Mo, welcome to The Show.

MO GOLDMAN: Thank you for having me on.

GILGER: So tell us, first of all, what you have observed here. How much, in your experience, have you seen bonds go up?

GOLDMAN: Well, we've seen a market increase in the amount that's being required to be posted for a bond for someone who's in detention. We haven't seen any change as far as what the requirements are to show that an individual meets the basics to be released. So for example, if somebody is not a flight risk and not a danger to the community, the bond should be relatively low. And we've noticed over the last decade and in my field of work that — in spite of the fact that many of the individuals are non-criminal and don't demonstrate any sort of flight risk — that the minimum amount for a bond has gone up quite considerably.

GILGER: How high are bonds that you're seeing nowadays? What is an average from your point of view?

GOLDMAN: You see a lot of them in the $10,000 to $20,000 dollar range. There are some that could go up as high as $50,000 to even up to $80,000 in some cases. And in comparison, if we go back about a decade, many of the bonds were around $1,500 to $3,000 typically. The lowest that an immigration judge can require for a bond is $1,500. However, ICE in their discretion can release an individual without even requiring a bond. And we saw a lot of that occur, especially around the end of President Obama's second term, where the priorities for holding individuals and deporting individuals was different then obviously it is today. And so you would see individuals who would get picked up in the same situation as they may be right now, and they would be released on their own recognizance. And if it's today, you could be looking at anywhere between about $10,000 to $15,0000 typically.

GILGER: Can these folks afford this kind of high bond? $15,000? $12,000?

GOLDMAN: No. I mean, the bottom line is that they're first of all going to be put in a detention center, in most cases, that's far away from immigration attorneys. That's one issue that that comes up is that they're going to be isolated. The second problem is the amount that has to be posted is much higher than what any individual could typically get without the assistance of family or friends. And that obviously becomes an issue as well. I will note that if people do arrive at a port of entry or get caught in the desert trying to enter the U.S. and they ask for asylum, they could be in most cases subject to mandatory detention where they're not going to even be eligible for a bond. So that's something that we're seeing a much larger increase of today vs. two, three or four years ago, where individuals who would come in in that sort of circumstance — they'd be paroled in, but they would be in many cases released on their own recognizance with the expectation that they would appear before ICE and check in with ICE and then appear for their hearing in front of the immigration court.

GILGER: What is the rationale from the government and immigration officials behind this kind of increase in bond prices? You're saying this is not necessarily applying to every single person who has a criminal background or is a flight risk?

GOLDMAN: It all ties into the idea of attrition through enforcement, the idea that you make the policies more difficult for immigrants, the more likely that they'll give up and or just decide to try and fight their case only so far. And so what you'll see, unfortunately, is people will eventually decide that they don't want to be sitting in a prison, and they'll throw in the towel. That's the reality. I mean, that's the reason why we're seeing higher bonds now is because we're in a much higher level of enforcement than we were three or four years ago.

GILGER: That's Mo Goldman, an immigration attorney with Goldman & Goldman in Tucson. Mo, thanks for joining us.

GOLDMAN: Thanks so much.

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