The American Immigration Council Sues ICE to Compel Agency to Publish its Bond Payment Procedures

This Lawsuit seeks to compel ICE to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and publish bond processing procedures that must be followed to obtain the release of individuals in detention.


This Freedom of Information Act suit seeks to compel Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to publish on its website the procedures individuals need to follow when paying bonds. This lack of transparency allows local ICE offices to implement inconsistent procedures, which leads to public confusion and needlessly extends the detention of people in ICE custody.

For years, ICE has failed to provide the public with its procedures about how individuals paying bonds can secure the release of people in detention.

Securing the release of a noncitizen from immigration custody is an important step for a noncitizen to access legal counsel and to successfully defend against removal. Release from detention also ensures that a noncitizen will be reunited with family members and their community in the United States while their deportation proceedings are ongoing.

ICE’s failure to proactively post its bond policies, interpretations, and instructions as required by statute impedes Plaintiffs’ and the public’s access to crucial information needed to deal effectively and knowledgably with ICE and to timely and efficiently secure the liberty of noncitizens eligible for release during their deportation proceedings.

While ICE has released some information about its protocols directly to individuals who made FOIA requests, it has failed to publish information about how it accepts bond payments, refunds bond payments, and how it decides to reject bond payments.

On June 24, the Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (“RAICES”), and several local organizations that provide funds for the payment of ICE bonds for members of their communities, filed a FOIA request asking ICE to proactively disclose on its website:

  • Documents addressing how members of the public can post bonds, like hours of operation, forms of payments, and other information on additional requirements to obtain the release of a loved one.
  • Information about how to obtain a refund of paid bonds. 
  • Policies and procedures about how ICE officers decide to reject, cancel or revoke a bond determination, as well as how individuals can challenge these determinations. 

ICE did not respond to the request, so the FOIA requesters filed suit.

The lawsuit was filed on December 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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