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An immigration judge has ruled that a North Carolina teenager arrested by ICE nearly six months ago can be released from detention — but only if his family can pay up thousands of dollars first.
19-year-old Yefri Sorto was one of the six North Carolina teens arrested by ICE earlier this year during national raids targeting Central American families fleeing gang violence and death.
Like the other teens, Yefri was arrested by officials on his way to school in late January and has been held in detention since.
Community members have relentlessly rallied for Yefri’s release from detention, which a judge granted on Monday. But because of the exorbitant amount set for bail by the judge — $30,000 — Yefri continues to remain in detention and away from school, his community, and his home.
“A $30,000 dollar bond is outrageous and disproportionate amount for anyone to pay, let alone a high school teenager and his low-income family,” Julie Yihong Mao, the Enforcement Fellow at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, told ThinkProgress. “High bond effectively means no bond particularly for low-income communities. Yefri has already been detained for more than 6 months, with this high bond amount, he faces the scary prospect of a long indefinite incarceration.”
Immigration officials generally set the bond price based on factors like whether an immigrant could be a flight risk, poses a public safety threat, has been deported previously, or has had a long criminal history. Sorto-Hernandez does not fit into any of those categories.
“For someone like Yefri, who’s a teenage high school student with strong family and community support, I would expect him to be the perfect candidate for release,” Mao said via email.
The arrest of Yefri and other Central American teens sent shockwaves through the undocumented immigrant community. According to multiple reports, student attendance rates at some schools dropped in light of the raids and arrests.
Tragically, even toddlers remain a target of immigration officials. Earlier this week, child and immigration advocates condemned news that ICE officials held a three-year-old Salvadoran child by himself in a detention center rather than release him to nearby relatives.
The child’s mother had been hospitalized for an undisclosed illness, reported McClatchy, and “asked that her name not be used because she feared repercussions from staff”:
“This is outrageous,” said Carol Anne Donohoe, who represents the mother and her son. “Picture a 3-year-old being detained without his mother, who is in the hospital. He has no idea what that means at the age of 3.”
Reached on Saturday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they needed to review the case. Authorities told Donohoe that he was under one-on-one, 24-hour care. He was safe and had time to play. But Donohoe said the child was “emotionally traumatized” and was not eating, having tantrums and kicking at doors.
Just yesterday, Senate Democrats introduced a groundbreaking bill to address this refugee emergency in Central America as kids and families flee horrific violence, gangs and rape.