Advocates and lawyers are accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of unfairly targeting asylum seekers detained in Louisiana, according to a report on NBC News. A growing number of people are now being forced to pay exorbitant bond fees before they can be paroled, even though they claimed asylum at a legal port of entry. “It’s an unorthodox move,” Mich Gonzalez, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, told NBC.
Gonzalez has recently been litigating against the New Orleans field office of ICE “for its constant refusal to parole asylum seekers,” according to NBC. “Now that they’re granting some paroles, they’re placing as many hurdles as possible,” he told the news outlet.
Immigration judges and ICE officials routinely require bonds for people with specific circumstances, like criminal histories or having entered the country in unauthorized ways, Gonzalez said.
They are not traditionally issued as a condition for releasing lawful asylum seekers on parole, according to a 2009 ICE directive. Immigration judges have no jurisdiction over the custody of such asylum seekers, and only ICE decides whether they get parole.
ICE has been issuing bond fees between $10,000 and $30,000, which is often too overwhelming for friends and family of detained asylum seekers to cover. Gonzalez told NBC that ICE is blatantly going against written policy by imposing these fines. “The 2009 Parole Directive explicitly states that absent adverse factors, such as an indication that someone is a flight risk, ICE should grant release on parole,” he said.
NBC reports that ICE is not informing asylum seekers why they are being released with a bond. According to the news outlet:
There are no recent figures for the number of asylum-seekers who have been released on bond. The evidence is anecdotal, based on interviews with attorneys and people who have been released.
NBC reported on a woman named Yaneici Peña Torres, 29, from Cuba. She “was paroled from South Louisiana Detention Center on June 3 after 10 months in detention and having been denied parole twice,” according to NBC. She eventually signed a contract with a bond company to cover her $10,000 parole fee.
“This is an abuse of power,” she said. “They don’t care about us.”