The Harms of Immigration Detention

Note: MFF only pays bonds for folks who live in MN, have significant family ties to MN, or who are detained in MN.


When ICE detains someone, the agency will choose who to set an “immigration bond” for. That is the amount of money that will have to be paid to the Department of Homeland Security for the detained person to be released from federal custody while their case is proceeding through immigration court. The bond amount — which is effectively the immigration system’s version of cash bail — is based on a ICE “risk assessment,” that measures the threat to public safety and the flight risk posed by the particular individual.


A detained individual who can afford to pay the ICE bond will be released as soon as they turn over the funds. If the individual can’t afford the bond, he or she can request that an immigration judge review the case and set a lower bond payment. In the meantime, they can be held for extended amounts of time in facilities where COVID-19 is spreading at a disproportionate rate and abuses are rampant/abuse is rampant.

Who is eligible for an immigration bond?

Not everyone who has been detained by ICE will be eligible for an immigration bond. Eligibility is based on a number of factors including criminal and deportation history, and asylum processing status. The Minnesota Freedom Fund cannot assist individuals in obtaining or determining their eligibility for a bond. That requires the assistance of a licensed immigration attorney, so if you or someone you know are in need of determining eligibility for a bond, please contact an immigration attorney for legal advice.


How does someone get MFF assistance with their immigration bond?

A detained individual who is eligible for an immigration bond but unable to afford it can contact the Minnesota Freedom Fund for financial assistance. The responsibility for doing so rests with the individual and their family or friends; unlike in criminal cases, MFF and the public do not have access to jail rosters that show the names of detainees or their bond amounts.  

Referrals on behalf of detainees requesting MFF bond assistance should complete an online request here.

Detained individuals unable to access the online referral form, can submit a letter requesting bond assistance by mailing information to: MINNESOTA FREEDOM FUND, PO BOX 6398, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 55406-039. Their letter must include the following: complete name, Alien Number, date of birth, country of birth, the detention facility, the bond amount, the name of attorney (if any), name and phone number of a friend/family member that can pick up the detained individual upon release, and the address where the individual expects to live upon release from custody.

After an immigration bond is paid, what happens next?

After an immigration bond is paid, ICE will begin the process of releasing the detained individual from custody. In order to be released, they must provide ICE with information about the person who will pick them up, as well as the address where they will live. Should that address change, it is very important that the released individual inform ICE and the immigration court within five days of their move.


What happens to the money the government collects through immigration bonds?


Immigration bonds are an important source of revenue for ICE, meaning that ICE has an incentive to continue incarcerating individuals, even if there is no threat to public safety. Although some families are able to recoup immigration bonds, it is estimated that over $200 million is still owed back to immigrant families who paid bonds which have since been cancelled. ICE also marks hundreds of bonds each month as "breached" due to procedural violations, and then uses the forfeited money - tens of millions of dollars - to fund its own operations, including detention centers. An estimated 30% of undocumented immigrants in the United States live in poverty - and it is at the expense of those families that ICE gets a budget boost from breached bonds.

What other groups provide assistance for immigration bonds?

The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a part of the National Bail Fund Network (NBFN), a group of over 60 community bail and bond funds across the country paying bail/bond for pretrial and immigration cases. In 2019, the network received 646 referrals for bonds that totaled $8,367,089. People applying for bond support come from 50 different countries of origin and live in 30 different U.S. states. The average bond paid was $13,033 — a staggeringly high number for many immigrant families.


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