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NY Law Regulates ‘Predatory’ Immigrant Bond Companies

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Monday, July 18, 2022   

A new law in New York State is expected to keep for-profit lenders from taking advantage of immigrants in detention facilities.

Some people in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement or "ICE" can post bail and be released until their court hearing. The Stop Immigrant Bond Abuse Act or SIMBAA regulates so-called "predatory" lenders making high-interest loans for these immigration bonds.

Prior to the new law, the detainee might sign a contract without a clear understanding of the fine print. Mustafa Jumale, immigration policy manager for the Envision Freedom Fund, described some of the new protections.

"It would prohibit private companies from using electronic shackles," said Jumale. "It would cap fees and cap interest rates on immigration bonds, and ensure immigrants are not misled by for-profit immigration bond companies."

Other SIMBAA protections include providing clear contracts in a language the person can understand.

Though many felt this was commonsense legislation, its critics warned that it could limit access to loans for people who need them.

Jumale said the law won't end for-profit lending - rather, it provides a safeguard for immigrants.

Until now, there hasn't been a cap in New York for how high these bonds could be. Jumale said he has seen some bonds set as high as $200,000, when the average ranges from $7,500 to $15,000.

While Jumale said he would like to see action on the immigration bond issue at the federal level, he also said he thinks change will start with the states.

"What we hope is that other immigrant rights organizations and civil rights organizations throughout the United States will use this bill as a model to pass in their legislatures," said Jumale. "We think that's one of the more effective ways to help regulate this kind of 'wild, wild West' industry."

One immigrant bond company, Libre by Nexus, is being sued by the New York and Virginia Attorneys General, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The company is accused of preying on immigrants in detention centers to get these loans, only to have them pay exorbitant fees and interest rates and be threatened with deportation if they don't make timely payments.




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