GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An effort to pay bond for people taken into federal custody on immigration violations is underway.
Immigration attorney Richard Kessler is helping organize the effort along with Joy Like A River Church in Wyoming.
“I would guess right now there’s probably at least 10 people from western Michigan — immigrants — sitting in Calhoun County Jail trying to raise their bond money,” Kessler told News 8 Monday.
Kessler said bond for those who were arrested by U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement is often thousands of dollars, forcing loved ones of the person arrested to take the time to find funds. All the while, immigrants are held in jail away from family and unable to assist in their defense.
Marilu Parra-Velazquez, one of Kessler’s clients, was arrested earlier this year. She was a passenger in a vehicle with her son when their car was stopped and he was arrested. Her son Brandon Reyes had recently been released from jail following a drunken driving arrest. ICE arrested Parra-Velazquez, too.
“If you don’t have the money, you don’t have a way to get out,” she told News 8 in Spanish as Kessler translated. “Every day we see more and more people.”
Parra-Velazquez said she entered the country without documents more than 16 years ago, seeking a better life for her family. She said she was fleeing an abusive relationship that she fears might have cost her or her son their lives if she didn’t escape.
Parra-Velazquez said she didn’t have access to the process of legal immigration. She is hopeful that the courts will allow her to stay in the U.S. since she has two young children who were born here.
Those who will benefit from the fund would not be held on any other charges.
“These are civil bonds, a civil situation, not criminal,” Kessler explained. “And also we should note, the immigration law says if people are convicted of certain types of crimes, virtually any felony, any drug crime and firearm crime, they don’t even qualify for bonds.”
Kessler said immigration policies of President Donald Trump’s administration have increased the need for the fund. He said more arrests have taken place and the system has become far less forgiving.
“The bonds have just shot up. The minimum is a $1,500 cash bond. We never see that anymore,” Kessler said. “I’d say the average is probably five or six thousand.”
The I-Bond Fund is collecting donations using a GoFundMe page.