These Lives Matter: Getting Out

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This is a follow-up to an August 24 post written by NIJC staff Sarah Rose Weinman and Kim Ybarra, and Gabriel Reyes, assistant federal defender in Alpine, Texas.

At approximately 1 p.m. on Wednesday, October 17, my colleague Sarah Rose Weinman sent me the email I had awaited for months. In one line, she informed me that our client, Jorge, had just been granted bond by the immigration judge. I will not attempt to convey here my excitement at receiving this email. I immediately went to her office to go over the numerous details of Jorge’s release. Paying bond is a difficult enough task for those detained in the same state where the bond will be paid. In Jorge’s case, however, he was detained in New Mexico, and his family would be paying the bond at the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Ohio. Jorge had been detained since February 2012, and our goal was to work as quickly as possible with his family and the Ohio and New Mexico ICE offices to ensure minimal delays in his release.

My first call was to Jorge’s brother in Ohio. He quickly confirmed that he would collect the necessary funds to pay the bond. When I told him that he would also have to find a way to pay the additional cost of Jorge’s travel from Texas to Ohio, he again immediately agreed to pay it. He quickly led the effort to borrow money from close friends and family to purchase the money order for Jorge’s bond. He also purchased Jorge’s Greyhound ticket so that Jorge could return to Ohio. His efforts exemplify the responsibilities family members assume to ensure their loved ones can go home.

Next on the list was communicating with Jorge himself. Jorge speaks Spanish and a little English and although he was present in the courtroom when the judge granted bond, I still was unsure if he understood what exactly had happened. I called the detention center and asked them to ask him to call me. When he did, he was the happiest I had ever heard him, and I knew immediately that he had understood what had happened in the courtroom. I told him that his brother was already working to get the money together, and Jorge was confident that his brother would get him out of detention as soon as possible. Just before my call, Jorge’s ICE officer had notified Sarah Rose of what would happen once bond was posted in Ohio, and I explained this to Jorge: Jorge’s family would need to send us the Greyhound ticket confirmation number. We would then fax it to Jorge’s ICE officer, who would fill out the paperwork for a contractor to take Jorge to the Greyhound station. Jorge absorbed all of this information, and agreed that he would call me as soon as he could once he was released.

Two days later, a Friday, Jorge’s brother had the bus ticket and was ready to pay the bond. But that afternoon, he called to tell me that the ICE office had not allowed him post bond. He had arrived at 9 a.m., only to find out that the office required out-of-state bonds to be posted by 8 a.m. I was disheartened to hear this, because I knew Jorge was expecting to be released that day. When I next spoke with Jorge, I explained the delay and he was surprisingly okay. He had a lot of faith in his brother completing the task the following Monday.

That Monday, Jorge’s brother successfully posted bond. Jorge was released around noon, and was driven to a Greyhound station where he began his 24-hour trip back to Ohio. I last spoke with him a week ago, and he seemed even happier than he was when I told him he was going to be released. Gone was the depressed and angry man who once contemplated giving up his life in the United States by taking a deport order just so he could be released from detention.  In his place was an enthusiastic Jorge who was attentive to everything I told him and who was genuinely interested in knowing what he needed to do to help his case. Energized by his release, Jorge is now emotionally ready for the fight it will take to keep his immigration status. It’s going to take years before his case is over, but I am confident that he is ready and willing to fight it out until the end.

Kim Ybarra is the national litigation project coordinator for Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center.

Photo credit: Joel Franusic/Creative Commons