Wednesday, June 11, 2008

To Bond or Not to Bond (Santa Fe Reporter)

To Bond or Not to Bond

By Mark Sanders

Published: June 11, 2008

As an employee at Santa Fe County’s jail, Nancy Hun, 29, has seen plenty of undocumented immigrants deported after landing in the facility. Three weeks ago, it hit home.

Hun learned the father of her 5-year-old daughter had been arrested when a local bail bond agent called her. Hun’s former boyfriend, Guatemala-born Juan Carlos Trujillo-Santiago, had been arrested by Santa Fe police for resisting arrest and needed $150 bond for his $1,500 bail. Hun agreed to pay the bond so Trujillo-Santiago could await his trial at home.

That never happened. Hun soon learned an “immigration hold” had been placed on Trujillo-Santiago, giving Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 48 hours to come retrieve Trujillo-Santiago. Subsequently, he would be transferred to ICE’s custody and deported.

Thus, Melissa Valdez from Jerry Gonzales Bail Bonding advised Hun there was no reason to post bond.

This advice has immigration advocates concerned. Officials from Somos Un Pueblo, a human rights group focusing on New Mexico’s immigrant community, say there have been numerous recent incidents in which family members were discouraged from posting bond.

Somos Executive Director Marcella Diaz advised Hun to pay the bond anyway.

Most family members of undocumented immigrants are advised, like Hun, not to pay bond due to the ICE hold, Diaz says. “We know that that’s illegal. Anyone who is afforded bail—it could be high, could be low—but once you’re afforded bail, you have the right to post it.”

In the case of Trujillo-Santiago, “the judge clearly did not think of this man as a flight risk,” Diaz tells SFR, noting Trujillo-Santiago’s low $150 bond. “He should have had the opportunity to go back [to court] and deal with this.”

Most of the time, men and women with ICE holds will never have the opportunity to go back to court because there is a strong likelihood ICE will deport them first. However, Diaz notes, there is always the possibility that ICE won’t show up.

This was not the case for Trujillo-Santiago. Hun paid his bond immediately and ICE came to get him the following day.

But Diaz says a person who does not receive bond can sit in jail for weeks waiting to see a judge. During that time, she says, taxpayers are footing the bill for an immigrant who will likely be deported right after seeing the judge. Diaz notes that many families faced with the harsh reality of their loved ones being deported would rather just get it over with.

Trujillo-Santiago’s initial arrest was unconnected to his immigration status. The City of Santa Fe Police Department was part of a multi-state gang raid the weekend of May 16 with ICE, US Marshals and state and county law enforcement agencies. A tip led to a raid on a Zepol Road apartment where there were several undocumented immigrants at the apartment; none were arrested. Trujillo-Santiago, however, crawled out a window and ran from the apartment—apparently believing police were there on an immigration raid—and was arrested after leading police on a foot chase.

“Basically, had this guy just stayed in place and cooperated, he would have been fine,” Santa Fe Police Capt. Gary Johnson says.

ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa says Trujillo-Santiago was subsequently interviewed by ICE agents who discovered he was undocumented.

Bond agent Valdez confirms she advised Hun not to pay the bond after learning of Trujillo-Santiago’s immigration status.

“We don’t like to take people’s money if they’re not getting out of jail,” she explains. Her agency does not refund bond money, regardless of the circumstances. “With that 48-hour hold, most of the time Immigration is going to pick them up.”

It’s a philosophy other bondspeople share. “The whole purpose of family members putting up bail money is so that a person can be released,” Elvie Lucero, co-owner of A-Bonding Co., says. “With ICE holds, that complicates things.”

Dolores Archuleta of Madrid Bail Bonds says she’s seen a spike in ICE holds over the past two or three months. She concurs with Lucero and Valdez. “We have to explain to families that [their loved ones] aren’t getting out of jail. They’ll be deported,” she says.

Currently, Trujillo-Santiago is in the Otero County’s jail awaiting deportation. Hun wants to see him, but does not know how long he will be there before being sent back to Guatemala.

Working in the jail, Hun says, it never bothered her to see inmates serving time for crimes and then getting deported.

“I understand that no matter where you’re from or what you do, if you commit a crime, I’m sorry,” she says. “But as far as [Trujillo-Santiago] and others who are taken into ICE custody just for being illegal, and then get put in these facilities and moved around—that does bother me. I know they’re not committing a crime, and yet their families may not even know English and wonder where their loved ones are. Within this year there’s been so much drama with ICE all over the US. I’ve seen it, but when it hits home, it’s harder to deal with.”

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