Story at a glance
- The Borderlands Get Free Fund, supported by community donations, helps free detained immigrants.
- Running for more than a year, the fund has successfully freeing 34 detainees.
- The long-term goal is to reduce detentions and promote alternative solutions to current border maintenance.
A community fund available to help immigrants out of detention centers has helped free 34 people from Immigration and Customs Enforcement this year, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Initially launched by the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC), the Borderlands Get Free Fund is currently accepting donations online for a bond fund that can free immigrants detained in San Diego or Imperial Counties. Per the webpage, the mandatory minimum amount of an immigration bond is $1,500. This can be a sudden and steep expense, and if a detainee cannot post bail they can remain imprisoned for unspecified amounts of time despite being eligible for release.
Erin Tsurumoto Grassi, the human rights policy advisor at Alliance San Diego, the parent organization that convenes SDIRC, stated that the detainee often ends up being a breadwinner in the family, leaving other members struggling with expenses. Moreover, the bond price tends to be greater than the $1,500 minimum. Tsurumoto Grassi explained that “We tend to see more from $3,000 and above,” depending on factors such as the individual, the judge and the case.
Established in September 2018, the fund works with families to meet bond requirements in order to reunite them with a loved one who are awaiting a decision on their asylum claims. Tsurumoto Grassi notes that the Borderlands Get Free Fund is structured so that it can handle a maximum payout of $5,000. Any additional funds come from the family or community fundraising, which has been successful; the first fundraiser held in October 2018 earned $35,000 from community donations.
The donors were made up of individuals, local businesses, unions and immigration law firms. Tsurumoto Grassi notes that immigration bonds are very expensive, “so there is a constant need to fundraise.” Through SDIRC and Alliance San Diego efforts, the Borderlands Get Free Fund has raised upwards of $100,000 to date.
The Voice of San Diego cites that 23 percent of residents in San Diego county are immigrants, and about 71 percent of that group are not U.S. citizens. The state of California itself has the second-largest amount of detainees behind Texas, according to Freedom for Immigration statistics cited in the San-Diego Union Tribune. The ultimate goal for SDIRC is to permanently reduce detentions in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
“The bond fund is one of many things we do. We are looking at a comprehensive approach,” according to Tsurumoto Grassi, including holding federal and local governments accountable.
In the long run, the SDIRC and the Southern Border Communities Coalition advocate for a more holistic approach to maintain the southern border region. Tsurumoto Grassi elaborates, saying “I don’t know that the bond system…is necessarily correct.” She advocates “more of a whole of government approach rather than an enforcement only approach,” where social workers, doctors and other professionals are involved to place immigrants in a community where they will thrive.