ICE Immigration Bonds Data Reveals Biden Admin’s Assault on Immigration Enforcement

By Jon Feere on February 20, 2024

A new set of ICE data obtained by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) through a Freedom of Information Act request highlights the use of bonds in ICE management of illegal aliens. While the information is helpful, TRAC fails to note how this data is more evidence of the Biden administration’s dismantling of the country’s immigration system and our national borders.

What’s an Immigration Bond? An immigration bond is a guaranty by a person who posts a bond (the obligor) on behalf of an illegal alien that the illegal alien will fulfill his or her obligations to the government. These obligations include reporting to a location at a date and time specified by ICE (such as a field office visit), voluntarily departing the United States on or before a voluntary departure date, or complying with all the terms of an Order of Supervision. If the obligor fails to perform as expected (e.g., he doesn’t get the alien to appear at an ICE field office when requested), ICE considers the bond to have been breached and keeps the money.

The entire concept is based on the belief that a person who posts money on behalf of an alien wants the money back and will ensure the alien adheres to the government’s direction. It’s a way ICE keeps track of aliens not in detention.

Big Drop in Bonds Under Biden. As the historical data posted by TRAC show, the use of bonds dropped during the pandemic, and then shot up to about half of what it was under the Trump administration, for a short period of time from February 2022 through the end of that year. But since then, through most of 2023, ICE’s use of bonds has been as low as it was during the pandemic:

Not only has the Biden administration chosen to make less use of immigration bonds, it has also lowered the dollar amount of the bonds it does issue:

The first full year of the Biden administration, 2022, saw an average bond amount of $3,000 and it went up to only $4,000 last year. This is in contrast to the median bond amounts of around $6,000 to $8,000 under the Trump administration. ICE can set the amount of the bond, and it was becoming clear to the subject matter experts running the bonds program that a higher amount, somewhere around $10,000, was more effective in getting compliance than lower amounts (i.e., people who post large amount of cash generally want the money back and are more likely to ensure the alien appears, as directed, so as to not forfeit that cash).

What Is the Biden Administration Doing? Though TRAC doesn’t provide much of an explanation regarding the changes illustrated by the figure and table, it does note that the change is because fewer aliens are being detained under the Biden administration and because of “policy decisions of the administration”.

Here’s what officers inside ICE are saying: Instead of detaining illegal aliens, the Biden administration is releasing everyone. Considering the massive influx in illegal immigration encouraged by the Biden administration, bonds should have been going up.

In other words, the Biden administration is dismantling the detention and bonds programs by simply releasing every illegal alien it can into the United States. And they’re not too concerned about ever locating them ever again. Just mass, lawless chaos without any attempt at actual management.

As to the lowered bond amounts, ICE insiders conclude that this has been the result of the Biden administration directing ICE field offices to release every illegal alien they can as quickly as possible. Lower amounts are easier for an obligor to post, so lowering the amount results in faster releases from custody. But ICE also knows that lowered bond amounts means lower compliance with the terms of release. If an obligor is given an opportunity to spring an illegal alien out of detention for $2,000 it’s entirely possible that the obligor is doing so without any intent of ever getting that money back — they’ll just ask the alien to pay off that debt at some point. Any future ICE notice to the obligor will be ignored. ICE routinely sees bonds being breached because the obligor never had any intent to get an alien to appear.

Again, among bond experts within ICE, there is an understanding that bonds should be somewhere around $10,000 if they are to be effective. The Biden administration lowering these amounts is a clear sign the people running the show have no desire for an effective bonds program — just like they have no desire for an effective border or immigration enforcement system. This data is more evidence that the Biden administration doesn’t really care if every illegal alien they release on bond disappears.

It would be a good idea for Congress to do a deep dive on immigration bonds and question their effectiveness, the policies involving who is allowed to post bonds (and how many), and then direct ICE to develop appropriate policies and practices.