From: The Honorable Jose E. Serrano
Sent By:
matthew.alpert@mail.house.gov

Date: 9/15/2016

Cosponsor the Immigration Courts Bail Reform Act

 

Current Cosponsors (13): Serrano, Gallego, Lieu, Lawrence, Velázquez, Norton, Lofgren, Conyers, McGovern, O’Rourke, Adam Smith, Gutiérrez, Vargas

Supported by: ACLU, Women’s Refugee Commission, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Human Rights Watch, CAIR, Detention Watch Network, Church World Service

 

Dear Colleague,

I invite you to cosponsor the Immigration Courts Bail Reform Act, legislation that would reform the bail setting and detention processes at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.  As criminal justice systems across the country
address disparities and problems in our bail processes, increasing attention has been focused on the constitutional implications of incarcerating individuals solely based on their inability to pay a bond amount or fine.  It is important that our immigration
system be held to the same standards.

Currently, the bail setting process in our immigration system is done by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which makes an initial custody determination, and the Department of Justice (DOJ), which makes a custody redetermination in an immigration
court setting at the immigrants’ request.  Unfortunately, under current agency policy, the process lacks basic safeguards to protect indigent immigrants who do not pose a danger to the community and who are not a flight risk.  Neither agency has official policies
to require consideration of an individual’s financial ability to pay when setting a bond amount, nor are they required to consider alternative conditions of release.  As a result, numerous individuals- including many asylum seekers- are being held in a detention
facility for no reason other than they are too poor to pay the set bond amount.

These policies are a significant waste of financial resources by the federal government, who ends up paying for the detention of individuals who have no real need to be detained.  The current process also potentially violates several provisions of the Constitution,
including the 8th Amendment’s Excessive Bail Clause, and the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment.  As a result, a class action lawsuit was recently filed against both federal agencies.

The Immigration Courts Bail Reform Act will apply create the necessary safeguards to ensure that our immigration system is efficient, effective, and fair.  The legislation will:

  • Require DHS and DOJ to consider the financial ability to pay in setting any bond amount
  • Eliminate the minimum bond amount currently in statute
  • Create a presumption that alternatives to detention are the preferred method of ensuring the appearance of an individual before an immigration judge
  • Create procedural standards to guarantee prompt bond hearings and decisions

I hope you will get join me in creating an immigration court system that is fairer, more humane, and complies with our constitution.  If you have any questions, or would like to sign on to the bill, please contact Matt Alpert in my office at matthew.alpert@mail.house.gov or 202-225-4361.

 

Sincerely,

 

José E. Serrano

Member of Congress