The Immigrant Bail Fund raised $2,400 at a dance event on Saturday to support its work posting bail for people held in immigration detention who are unable to do so on their own.
The event, a dance party with refreshments, was held at the New Haven People’s Center on Howe Street and attended by around five dozen people. The Immigrant Bail Fund is a recent initiative, founded at the beginning of the year as a collaboration between the Connecticut Immigrants Rights Alliance, Unidad Latina en Acción and the Connecticut Bail Fund. The suggested donation for the event was 20 dollars per attendee.
“The IBF exists to help community members spring out of pretrial, wealth-based ICE detention,” said Alok Bhatt, who represents CIRA on the steering committee of the IBF. “Unlike in the criminal system, for immigrant bond you need to pay 100 percent up front, yet the cases drag out for many more years than criminal ones, so the prospects of getting that money in the immediate term are highly difficult.”
Since its inception, the IBF has successfully posted bail for six or seven immigrants held in detention across the state, Alok said. He added that immigrants from Connecticut are typically moved to Massachusetts while they are detained.The IBF helps not only undocumented immigrants but also immigrants with legal status who have been indicted for a crime and have found themselves in a similar situation, according to its website.
The Connecticut Bail Fund is a nonprofit founded last year that posts bail for impoverished people in the state judicial system who remain in pretrial detention because they are unable to post bail.
“What happens a lot of the time is that people will either sit in jail waiting for trial, for months or years,” said Brett Davidson ’16, the director of the Connecticut Bail Fund. “You could lose your job, your house, custody of your children, all because you can’t pay bail. Or, the first time you go to court, you could plead guilty, to reduce your jail sentence, and have no real opportunities to defend yourself.”
CIRA and ULA approached the CBF to implement a similar fund specifically for immigration bond. Davidson explained that the same problem occurs in the federal immigration process. People who are unable to post bail cannot defend themselves and often have trouble accessing lawyers, he said. CBF and IBF are managed under a single nonprofit entity based in New Haven, Community Bonds.
The party attracted people of all ages, though the majority of people present were in their mid 20s and 30s.
The atmosphere was jovial, with Spanish-language songs playing over the booming stereo as attendees danced. The donation jars filled as the night went on. There was a strong sense of community among those who attended the party; many people at the party recognized and knew others, either through ULA, CIRA or CBF.
Mitch Linck, a party attendee, emphasized the importance of community solidarity, especially at times when “attacks on immigrant communities are happening as often as they are today.”
CIRA organizer Anna Maria River-Forastieri said the IBF relies on fundraisers like the dance party to carry out its work.
“It’s important for the community to get together and fundraise and party together and dance and have food together,” she said. “And at the same time, fundraise some much needed dollars to get people out of jail.”
Keshav Raghavan | firstname.lastname@example.org