The U.S. criminal legal and immigration enforcement regimes are systems of punishment that feed off each other to target low-income and working class BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) and immigrant communities.
Racist, targeted policing of BIPOC communities ensnares people into a criminal legal system that cooperates with ICE to feed immigrants into the deportation machine. An arrest or a plea to a criminal charge puts people’s immigration status in jeopardy, and ICE agents often disguise themselves as local police to trick immigrants into allowing ICE inside their homes so they can make an arrest.
While millions of lives are upended by policing, prosecution, and incarceration, immigrants who come into contact with the criminal legal system face additional consequences, including detention and deportation.
Envision Freedom fights to dismantle the oppressive and interconnected criminal legal and immigration systems through public education and advocacy initiatives aimed at achieving lasting, transformative change.
Watch I Know What It Means To Be Free
BAIL & PRETRIAL DETENTION
In the criminal legal system, despite a constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence, more than 60% of people in U.S. jails are being detained while they await trial. In the majority of cases, money is the barrier to freedom because the bail amount far exceeds what they and their families can afford. The result is a two-tiered system of justice: freedom for those who have money and detention for those who do not.
This predatory practice of requiring money bail in exchange for freedom is an insidious tool used by the racist criminal legal system to separate families, criminalize race and poverty, and deprive people of their liberty.
The injustice does not stop there; so, neither does our work. We are not only fighting for an end to money bail and the criminalization of poverty, we’re fighting for freedom for all. That means an end to the system responsible for caging people and tearing apart families: pretrial detention.
Ending Bail & Pretrial Detention in New York
Eliminating pretrial detention and ending the money bail system are a core part of our mission. Envision Freedom Fund (then known as Brooklyn Community Bail Fund) was a key member of the coalition that helped pass bail reform in New York State in 2019. Although the reform didn’t entirely eliminate money bail, it resulted in almost 7,000 fewer New Yorkers incarcerated pretrial in New York’s jails each day in February 2020 than in February 2019. In response to fear mongering by law enforcement agencies, police unions and media outlets, the legislation was rolled back a few months later to expand money bail and other forms of carceral surveillance, resulting in the pretrial detention of thousands more New Yorkers in the midst of the COVID 19 crisis. Limiting the use of cash bail was never our end goal — we will continue to advocate for the complete elimination of pretrial detention and money bail. Learn more about how our work to dismantle criminal legal systems has evolved.
Bail Bond Accountability
Working with New Yorkers who were routinely harmed by the predatory commercial bail industry prompted us to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the industry’s practices in New York City, and to join with other grassroots organizations and service providers in New York City to form the Bail Bond Accountability Coalition (BBAC). Our work with the BBAC resulted in new consumer protection laws passed by the NYC Council in 2018 and revised bail bond industry regulations promulgated by the New York State Department of Financial Services. We continue to work with the Coalition on issues related to commercial bail bond consumer protection.
IMMIGRATION BOND & ICE DETENTION
Like the criminal legal system, the immigration enforcement regime is punitive and rooted in white supremacy. Just like the police, ICE monitors and raids poor communities of color and Black communities are disproportionately impacted by immigration enforcement.
Because of a set of unjust, punitive, and racist immigration laws passed in 1996, the vast majority of people arrested by ICE—70%—are subjected to mandatory detention because of contact with the criminal legal system, and denied a hearing to determine eligibility to pay bond in exchange for their freedom. Other immigrants are detained after approaching immigration agents at the border to request asylum; for entering the U.S. in search of work or to reunite with family; or for overstaying their visas.
Envision Freedom Fund believes that the only way to prevent the harm caused by the immigration enforcement web is to abolish it. Our long-term goal of ending the criminalization, detention, deportation and surveillance of all immigrants requires more than undoing policies or small fixes. However, under our current policies, immigration bond is one of the few ways people in detention can secure their freedom in the short term.
For those who do get the chance to request bond, most are denied. Even when bond is granted, the amounts are often so high that people in detention and their families cannot afford to pay. Many immigrant families, desperate to free their loved ones, are victimized by the predatory commercial immigration bond industry, which is unregulated in most states.
Abolish Detention, Abolish Deportation, and Abolish ICE
The U.S. immigration detention and deportation regime is a system of white supremacy designed to target, traumatize and tear apart communities of color, separate families, and carry out widespread human rights violations.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), working with local law enforcement, is the government agency responsible for carrying out the daily racist attacks on immigrant communities, incarcerating and deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year.
In order to build a society that values everyone’s humanity and dignity, we must abolish the systems that are built to harm our communities. That’s the vision, but we have a long road ahead. Along the way, we will continue to partner with immigrant rights organizations, attorneys and advocates on campaigns to raise awareness about the impact of racialized policing and prosecution on immigrants, close local detention centers, and pay bond to help increase people’s chances of winning their immigration cases and strengthen our communities.
Abolish Surveillance of Immigrant Communities
The U.S. has built a robust surveillance state that it uses to target immigrants for deportation, undermine their privacy, and retaliate against advocates, lawyers and journalists who have been outspoken about ICE’s abusive practices. ICE often contracts with multi-billion dollar companies to collect a range of private information, including individuals’ employment information, phone records, immigration history, social media and internet activity, biometric data, criminal records, and home and work addresses. Our surveillance regime has grown exponentially over the years—under democrat and republican regimes alike—and its enduring oppression must be dismantled.