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Local group provides money, legal help for detained immigrants

It takes a lot of money to help detained immigrants and one group is answering the call.

The detainment process starts as soon as an immigrant is arrested, not leaving a lot of time to seek out all the help that they might need.

Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project, a local group based in Iowa City, is trying to help buy time for those who can't.

In 2008, nearly 400 immigrants were arrested and charged with a variety of offenses in Postville, Iowa.

It was the largest single raid of a workplace in the United States, and it drew a lot of attention and a lot of support.

"They were able to really quickly collect a lot of money and bail people out and they saw it made a big difference," Elizabeth Rook, co-founder of Community Bond Project, said.

After the election, the group worried that history might repeat itself and they quickly collaborated to make sure they were prepared.

"Average immigration bail is $5,000 to $7,000, that's per individual and we want to be prepared in the case of a raid," Rook said.

Natalia Espina, advocate in the group, said the legal process can be confusing for immigrants so she's hoping they can help clarify some of the procedures.

"We're really just trying to set up a system that is helping people access due process," Espina said.

"In immigration, that means that if you're charged with being removable from the U.S. or if you're charged with being here unlawfully, you have a right to see if there's a chance you could stay," Julia Zalenski, lawyer, said.

All money raised through donations would provide bail money for detained immigrants, even help with legal counsel and give them an opportunity to handle personal matters while they await trial.

"We're not making this system up out of whole cloth either, it's an established system, we're just trying to increase people's access to it," Zalenski said. "Honestly, put plainly, we're trying to make sure poor people don't get deported just because they're poor."

The Community Bond Project is looking for more monetary contributions from the community.

For information on how you can get involved, click this link to the website.

*Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project will be a 501 (c)(3) non profit organization in May.

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