RAICES: Why a Bond Fund was a Great Fit For Massive Donations

Over social media over the past several weeks, I have noticed a lot of people upset about RAICES donations being used to fund the bonds of many detained refugees incarcerated in ICE facilities. I think that this frustration — while understandable — is fundamentally flawed, and wanted to share why I think that what RAICES is doing is exactly what they should be doing: that is, paying bonds directly to DHS is not some turnaround or publicity stunt, but rather, this is RAICES doing exactly what they said they would do.

Some background: RAICES is an immigrant advocacy legal org. They work with local lawyers to help provide legal support for immigrants, and in that role they provide a number of services, including paying bonds for some of those they work with. Prior to this year, they were relatively small — managing a few hundred thousand in annual donations — but recently saw a huge uptick in donations as the result of a number of highly visible public donations campaigns. In total, they received more than 20 million in donations in a period of just weeks — an absolutely enormous amount of money for a small organization like theirs to manage.

If RAICES was not a bond fund, these funds would languish for a *long time*, because managing millions of dollars of funds — something like 20x their previous operating budget! — is logistically a nightmare. (For example, a hurricane-related fund last year received $35M in funds targeted for use helping hurricane victims recover in Texas … and have managed to spend only $12M of it, with $23M languishing in an account that practically speaking may never be sent.) Most organizations are not set up to receive this much money! But thankfully, we all got lucky that this *one* singled out organization is so goddamn perfect for a ton of cash: paying bonds for people is literally the best way to ensure that they are reunited with their families.

Bonds are not actual money that goes to the government to keep. That is, the money paid to DHS does not somehow line the coffers of those imprisoning immigrants permanently: instead, the bond is a surety to make sure that the person in question gets to court, and is repaid by the court once they show up. For refugee cases, something like 97% of these cases do. And once they do that money goes back to RAICES… which can use it again for more immigrants.

The campaign page on Facebook was very clear about the intent: Quoting from a Guardian article on the topic, “The campaign page said all money raised was going to “directly fund the bond to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while they await court proceedings””

Slate reviewed this effort in the midst of this massive amount of fundraising: Why Even Viral-Fundraising Skeptics Can Feel Good About Donating to RAICES. The article called this out as an absolutely lucky break in our furor of fundraising: This bond fund will not only serve to immediately get thousands of parents out of ICE detention and reunited with children, but this bond fund will likely serve to help ensure that not just the current batch of people, but thousands more every 3-6 months will be able to be reunited with family, not having to spend time in ICE facilities completely unnecessarily. And that’s the reason why I continued to encourage people to give money to them.

I’m sorry some people didn’t read the campaign they were giving money to, or felt tricked, but this bond fund is just an extremely excellent use of this money, which is going to help detained immigrants for years to come. We realistically couldn’t have found a better way to directly help those affected by such a program than this.

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