By ALICIA LEONARD
An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently paid a visit to the Walton County Jail over bond issues relating to undocumented detainees.
According to Jail Administrator Danny Glidewell, family members and others looking to post bond on illegal aliens in the jail had been “gently discouraged” in the past from posting bond due to the fact the undocumented inmates had a detain order placed on them by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and were scheduled to be picked up by the federal agency.
When an undocumented immigrant is picked up by local law enforcement for a violation, their information and fingerprints are sent into ICE to determine if they are in the country illegally. Glidewell said they usually have a response within 24 hours about whether a detain order is to be placed on the arrestee. In the past, the judge then sets bond and a court date for the offense, at their first appearance. If the bond was not paid, the arrestee awaits their hearing and sentence here. Upon completion, ICE is then notified they have 48 hours to pick up the detainee before they are released.
Glidewell said in the past they had discouraged the posting of bonds for these arrestees, due to the fact that if they were deported after being picked up by ICE, the person posting bond would usually lose their money since the arrestee would be unable to get back into the country to make an appearance at their court date.
“We understand that many of these families cannot afford to lose what money they have, but we are no longer saying anything to them. After our visit from the ACLU, we are just keeping quiet and accepting the bond money.”
The placing of bond on these detainees is in actuality speeding up the process of moving them from local jurisdiction and into federal custody. “We have about a hundred percent rate of detainers placed on our undocumented inmates. Now that bonds are being posted, they are being picked up quicker by ICE and our population is over two-thirds less that it was before.”
Barbara Gonzalez, public information person for ICE, told the Herald that the process may seem to be moving faster because the bonds are a form of resolution according to their operating standards. “If there is a detainer by ICE in place and either the inmate is scheduled to be released, or a bond has been placed, we then have 48 business hours to respond and to pick up that detainee for transport to one of our facilities,” said Gonzalez.
ACLU staff attorney Benjamin James Stevenson was the lawyer who paid the visit to the jail. He said, “No jail should ignore a judge’s order for pretrial release and refuse to accept payment for anyone’s bond, even if ICE has issued a immigration detainer. While ICE may take custody of the detainee within the required 48 hours after the bond’s payment, an ICE detainer does not trump the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The presumption of innocence is eviscerated when a person otherwise eligible for pretrial release and willing to post bond must sit in jail and await trial.”
The question now is – what happens to the bond money paid for the detainees after they are picked up by ICE?
Linda Warren, criminal court manager for the Walton County Clerk of Courts office, said it’s mainly up to the judge over the case in these instances. “Usually, the judge will have to investigate if the person has been deported or not,” said Warren. In the case of a cash bond, if the person has been deported, the judge may order the bond funds to be forfeited or used to pay fines and restitution, or returned to the person who put the funds up in the first place. If ordered by the judge to be forfeited and the clerks office has funds left at the end of the fiscal year over their budget, it is then returned to the state.
Glidewell maintains his department was trying to not cause any harm to the families through discouraging them to put up money they may never get back, “All this really does is have a negative affect on the families posting bond and the court system, but we will comply with the request from the ACLU to not discourage the posting of bonds on undocumented immigrants under ICE detainers.”