The Issue

Immigrants held in detention centers are often forced to navigate complex immigration laws and procedures without legal representation as it is difficult to obtain counsel while incarcerated. Moreover, as a result of their detention, they are more likely to lose their cases, as it is much more difficult to adequately prepare for a hearing from behind bars. Finally, they are also often left unable to provide for their families as their detention may result in the loss of income, housing, and healthcare. 



median bond amount set by California immigration courts in 2018.


Any non-citizen without legal status can be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and processed for removal from the United States. The vast majority of these people, however, have both a right to a hearing--to challenge their removal--and the right to have a bond set. Because of a backlog in immigration cases and the complexity of the immigration system, if a detained person cannot pay the median $14,000 bond, they may spend years in detention awaiting the conclusion of their proceedings. In 2018, only 35.5% of detainees are even granted bond.

Immigration detention is jail. In 2014, 599 immigrants were being held in the three county jails in Northern California which contract with immigration authorities. Immigration detention centers limit movement, visitation, food, recreation, and access to the outside world; people in detention are confined to cells, are forced to wear uniforms, and are often held alongside people serving time for criminal convictions. Detention centers sometimes employ solitary confinement and, what human rights organization have called, excessive use of restraints and lack of access to healthcare and exercise. 


Unlike criminal defendants who are guaranteed legal representation, immigrants in detention may never speak to legal counsel. According to a study conducted by the Northern California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (NCCIJ) in 2014, roughly 2 in 3 immigrants detained by the San Francisco Immigration Court did not receive any legal representation during their proceedings. Trying to navigate the complex set of immigration laws and procedures from inside detention with limited access to materials, friends, family, and a telephone, is extremely difficult. Consequently, immigrants who secure bond during their case and find legal representation are about 8 times more likely to win their cases than those who remain incarcerated and unrepresented. Once released, individuals are able to more easily find counsel who can assist them in navigating the complex labyrinth of immigration laws. In addition, once released, individuals have the freedom and ability to work on their own cases, finding and securing crucial evidence that will often make the difference in allowing them to be granted relief by an Immigration Judge.

2 in 3

detained immigrants do not receive legal representation.


of detainees in Northern California had lived in the United States for 10 years or more.


Any amount of time in detention can put jobs, housing, healthcare, or child custody of a detained immigrant at risk. In 2014, more than 50% of detainees in Northern California had lived in the United States for 10 years or more; 77% had families in the United States; and 65% had jobs before entering detention. The detention and deportation of an individual simply because they cannot afford to pay bond, has devastating consequences for the immigrant's spouse, children, and community who depend on their earnings, including harm to their financial, educational, physical, and mental wellbeing.

Our Intervention

To reduce the enormous negative outcomes for immigrants who are detained, their family, and their community, we help raise funds so that they can bond out. Bonded out, represented immigrants are eight times more likely to win their cases than unrepresented detainees. By increasing their access to legal representation, time with their family and community, and their ability to maintain their jobs and homes, they will be more likely to fight their deportation cases, remain with their families and communities, and become financially secure.


Bonded out, represented immigrants are 8x more likely to win their cases than unrepresented detainees.

*Source: Northern California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, “Access to Justice for Immigrant Families and Communities: Study of Legal Representation of Detained Immigrants in Northern California,” Oct. 2014 and TRACImmigration, "Three-fold Difference in Immigration Bond Amounts by Court Location," July 2018.