Libre By Nexus, a Virginia-based bail bond company, has discovered a new way to profit off the misery of immigrants detained by ICE.
A string of Spanish-language pieces from La Opinion and Univision highlight the disturbing trend. As a condition for paying their bond for their release from detention, the company is contractually forcing immigrants to shell out $420 a month for use of a GPS ankle bracelet.
Detained immigrants are already paying for a percentage of their bond, sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars, and advocates say that the company is taking blatant advantage of immigrants who are desperate for freedom and have very little other financial options and resources.
And, according to the Spanish-language reports, the bail bond company’s actions are perfectly legal. An ICE spokesperson told La Opinion that the agency has “no involvement in the agreement between the bond companies and the beneficiaries of bonds.”
Several formerly-detained immigrants spoke to La Opinion about their experiences with the company.
One Salvadoran immigrant left detention in June of 2013 after the bail bond company posted his $7,500 bail. While the detained immigrant covered over $2,000 of the bail, the cost of wearing the GPS ankle bracelet for 16 months since has amounted to well over that amount, to more than $6,700 total.
Another formerly-detained immigrant tells La Opinion she is also paying the company the monthly $420 amount for a GPS device that is not even currently functioning. This is after several immigrants have said that the bail bond company even charged them $50 for a charger and nearly $4,000 for device insurance.
Byron Vasquez, director of a local group advocating for the formerly-detained immigrants, told La Opinion that he compares the company’s actions to smugglers who also charge migrants thousands of dollars to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It is a form of slavery,” Vasquez said. “Just more modern”.
It seems the prison industrial complex is always finding ways to profit from the most vulnerable of the population. Earlier this year, Salon highlighted the massive earnings the bail bond industry rakes in from detained Americans, like immigrants:
According to research by the ACLU and the Nation, the bail industry now pulls in $2 billion in revenue annually. They described the practices of bail bondsmen like Eric Amparan, who keeps 10% of a bail amount as a non-refundable fee even if the person is found innocent. The higher the bail amounts set by judges, the more bail bondsmen stand to make—and Prison Profiteers reported that between 2002 and 2011, the American Bail Coalition (a lobbying group for the bail industry) spent $3.1 million lobbying for judges to set higher bail amounts. Prison Profiteers also noted that average bail amounts increased substantially with the growth of the prison-industrial complex, going from $39,800 in 1992 (the year ABC was founded) to $89,900 in 2006.
Additionally, the American Friends Service Committee has done considerable research on private prisons that “profit from lucrative government contracts to detain immigrants”:
“Together, they operate eight of the ten largest immigrant detention centers,” according to the report. “GEO and CCA combined operate 72 percent of the privately contracted ICE immigrant detention beds.”
“The immigrant detention mandate is a byproduct of the lobbying done by corporations like CCA and GEO. Introduced into the DHS Appropriations Act of 2010, this “bed quota” has remained a critical part of the immigrant enforcement strategy. The mandate currently dictates that 34,000 immigrants must be detained each day, thus increasing the demand for the construction and management of detention centers.”