California Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) have introduced Senate Bill 960, which will make it clear that consumer financial protection laws apply to all bail and immigration bond companies.
Currently, many people are required to sign legally complex and often unfair contracts with commercial or immigrant bondsmen, almost always without representation, according to the lawmakers. For immigrant families who face a basic English-language barrier, the system is nearly impossible to navigate, leaving them vulnerable to predatory business practices.
“In California, we have all sorts of consumer protections that have been the law of the land for 50 years,” Hertzberg said. “But when it comes to securing an immigration bond, or a family who has someone incarcerated … the rules are different. What this bill does is simply give everybody the same protections that you get if you open a credit card, or buy a car or house.”
“Individuals in immigrant detention centers face human rights abuses, including physical and sexual abuse, poor access to healthcare, little access to legal counsel, overuse of solitary confinement and even death,” Durazo added. “These detainees are extremely vulnerable to further deterioration. They and their loved ones are also vulnerable to financial exploitation. It is our responsibility to protect against unfair consumer practices while working to ensure that detainees have access to bonds.”
Representatives of Bet Tzedek, a nonprofit law firm that provides legal aid to more than 40,000 people annually, is among the organizations supporting the legislation.
“For too long, the companies that offer bail bonds and immigration bonds have operated in the shadows, taking advantage of families at their most vulnerable and desperate moment,” said Diego Cartagena, president and CEO of Bet Tzedek. “This law will correct those wrongs by making it clear that California’s consumer protection laws apply to both the bail and immigration bond systems.”
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