Last November, a federal judge ruled that the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia could not detain asylum-seekers without parole or bond hearings. But as those proceedings began in December, in more than a dozen cases immigration judges set prohibitively high bonds for asylum-seekers — as high as $15,000.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Urban Justice Center's International Refugee Assistance Project filed suit, and on February 9, a federal judge ordered that immigration judges at the Batavia facility must now take into consideration an asylum-seeker's ability to pay bond and the availability of alternatives to money bond.
The ruling affects asylum-seekers who cross into the US and present themselves to immigration officials to seek refuge. If they pass a credible-fear interview, they'll be detained, unless they post bond or are granted parole — both at the discretion of a judge — until the end of their immigration case, which could take months or longer.
Asylum-seekers, as a group, are only a distinct part of the larger immigrant community in Western New York. The November ruling, which ordered parole and bond hearings, affected 39 people detained at Batavia. Nine were subsequently released on parole, and 12 were released after having bond set and managing to pay the bond amount.
The ruling impacts only the Batavia facility — although, the NYCLU sees similar problems happening at other detention facilities around the country, says Scout Katovich, Legal Fellow at the NYCLU.
"We're not going to fix the backlog in immigration courts overnight," Katovich says. "So in the meantime, the least we can do is make sure people have a fair shot at being free while they fight their case."