Julio Barahona Exodus Fund
Between December 2016 and July 2017, at least five people tried to commit suicide at the privately-run Adelanto Detention Center about 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, where many immigrants who are seeking asylum await decisions on their cases. Three died in the space of only five months.
Some asylum seekers decided to act. They made headlines when they launched hunger strikes to protest unreasonably high bonds, physical abuse and medical neglect. Eight Central American and 20 Haitian asylum seekers risked forcible feeding to bring attention to the deplorable conditions they were living in, conditions that continue to this day.
Lay and ordained clergy stepped up with CLUE to raise money to post bond for the hunger strikers so they could reunite with their families and look for attorneys. Unlike in the criminal system, people facing an immigration judge are not entitled to an attorney to represent them in court. If they can’t afford a lawyer, they face an unfamiliar system with unfamiliar laws and an unfamiliar language by themselves.
We believe all human beings are precious. We know immigrants, as creatures precious to God, have the right to due process under the Constitution. And we know that, at the Adelanto Detention Center, bonds are high and detention is routine even in easily verifiable asylum cases. Because the vast majority of immigrants detained there have little money, few friends here, and little understanding of the language or the legal system, they get deported back to the danger they tried to flee when they left their home countries.
When we approached the original eight Central American hunger strikers about raising money to post their bonds, they refused to accept our help if it did not include their Haitian comrades. We were inspired by their solidarity to bond them all out. The first to go free was Julio Barahona, for whom this fund is named.
Bond amounts average $15,000, and bail companies generally demand 20 percent ($3,000) to guarantee their loan. There is also an additional $800 “release fee.” Some refugees have family members to help them come up with the money, but others have no extra help. On average, they each come up short about $2,300, just on the bond.
Through the Julio Barahona Exodus Fund, we help meet the asylum seekers’ immediate needs while continuing the long fight to end the jailing of immigrants. Join us in this struggle for the dignity and compassionate treatment of our brothers and sisters from other countries. Each of us has been alone and friendless sometime, and any one of us would welcome such help if we were facing such a challenge.