Bond-Security Firm Takes Immigrant Group to Court

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) — America’s only bond-security provider for immigrants claims in court that it is losing business because a nonprofit has been advising clients to remove the ankle bracelets that monitor their movements and ensure they show up for court.

When it comes to bond securitization for immigrants who have been detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Virginia-based Libre by Nexus is the only game in town.

As explained in the complaint, filed on June 29 in Kings County Supreme Court, immigrant detainees typically lack traditional collateral, but Libre can guarantee their compliance to bail bondsmen because it monitors clients’ movements with GPS ankle monitors.

Libre, which collects a monthly fee from the immigrants for its services, credits its business model with having “successfully reunited thousands of detainees with their families while their immigration cases wind their way through court.”

Since at least 2015, however, Libre says it has lost contact with at least four clients counseled by Central American Legal Assistance, a New York charity whose name is abbreviated in the complaint as CALA.

“Libre’s unique and valuable services to the undocumented immigrant community are now threatened by CALA, which brazenly counsels Libre’s clients to breach their contracts with Libre, and physically assists Libre’s clients to unlawfully remove the monitoring devices,” the complaint states. “To date, CALA has induced and assisted at least four (4) of Libre’s clients to breach their those contractual obligations by cutting off and removing Libre’s GPS monitoring bracelets.”

In addition to leaving it high and dry on the monthly monitoring fees laid out in their contracts, Libre says the immigrants are no longer appearing for their court dates and appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

“As a result, Libre has suffered serious damage to its reputation, along with monetary damages, and most importantly: Libre is in grave danger of suffering irreparable, future damages,” the complaint states.

Libre wants an injunction and punitive damages, alleging breach of contract, tortious interference and conversion, but Central American Legal Assistance director Anne Pilsbury says there is more to the story.

Noting that Libre’s services run immigrants about $400 a month for a case that can last two or three years, on top of the original cost of the bond, Pilsbury says the hardships become too much for some clients to bear.

Furthermore the devices — or grietes, as they are called in Spanish — have been known to cause  swelling and circulation problems.

In those cases, Pilsbury said in an interview, “we have indeed cut them off, or our clients did so.”

Pilsbury said her group promised to stop if Libre would address the physical pain and injury being caused by the bracelets. It has been impossible, however, to get a person at the company to talk to about these issues, Pilsbury added.

“Maybe now that we’re in litigation we can talk,” she said.

Libre’s complaint notes that it wrote to Pilsbury in late May, asking her to return the bracelets that had been cut off and sign a letter promising never to do it again.

“On June 8, 2017, an attorney for Nexus Caridades Attorneys received a  package from the Director of CALA, and the package contained three damaged ankle bracelets and a letter, dated June 5, 2017, in which Anne Pilsbury, on behalf of CALA, refused to sign the proposed agreement and agree not to remove ankle bracelets from Libre’s clients in the future,” the complaint states.

Libre says it has no assurances that CALA won’t remove bracelets from its clients in the future.

It says “Ms. Pilsbury did not even mention the agreement that she was asked to sign.”

Libre is represented by John Shoreman of McFadden & Shoreman in Washington, D.C.

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