The Other Bail System: Immigration Detention and Immigration Bonds

My name is Lizbeth Mateo. I am a 3L at Santa Clara Law with an interest in employment and immigration law. Prior to coming to law school I worked with undocumented immigrant families to fight against the deportation of their loved ones. My research will focus on immigration bail, not only because of the work I have done in the past but because being an undocumented immigrant myself makes this an issue that directly impacts me and my family.

When I started thinking about bail and how it works in the immigration context, I realized how little I know about the topic and how little information is available to the public. Since 2007, the national average daily detainee population has been more than 30,000. In fiscal year 2015 alone 406,595 immigrants were detained. A number of those detained were able to reunite with their loved ones either by posting bond or because they were released under their own recognizance – a promise to return to court for further proceedings. It is unclear, however, how many were released in this way— federal population statistics do not include the number of releases, and the numbers on the Transactional Record Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) website do not reflect these numbers either.

My research will be divided into three prongs. First, I will explain how immigration detention and immigration bail works by comparing it to the criminal system. Then I will focus on the issues immigrants face when trying to post bail – from the potential high bail amounts, the lack of resources to pay that money, language barriers when contracting with bail bond companies, and whether bail bond companies have different contracts or regulatory requirements for undocumented immigrants in ICE custody. I will also look at the state and federal regulatory framework for immigration bond services. I will conclude by focusing on pre-deportation release – the possible alternatives to immigration detention and bail, the cost of these alternatives, and the impact they may have on the detained immigrants and their families.