In many cases, it’d be cheaper for immigrants to pay a nonrefundable bond to ICE than to bother with Libre’s bond services.
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has filed a lawsuit against Libre by Nexus, claiming the company forces immigrants to buy expensive bonds.
CNBC notes that the lawsuit was filed by the CFPB on Monday. The agency is joined in its suit by the attorneys general of several states, including New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
Libre, says CNBC, works with immigration detainees as well as their families. Most of its clients come from various Latin American countries and often speak little to no English. The service works to secure detainees’ release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement centers on bond, after which migrants may resume daily life while waiting for their court dates.
However, the lawsuit against Libre by Nexus alleges that, after securing an individual’s release, the company begins to pressure migrants to avail more services.
Detainees, claims the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are usually driven to a local restaurant or a company office once they have been freed from ICE custody. Upon reaching the right venue, Libre representatives purportedly use coercive tactics to get immigrants to sign “abusive” contracts.
These contracts, says CNBC, are written exclusively in English and contain provisions which hold often-impoverished migrants responsible for paying high fees.
While Libre officials led migrants to believe the papers they were signing would help pay off their bond, they were—in actuality—permitting the company to charge them a variety of high-priced, nonrefundable fees.
According to CNBC, Libre typically asks that migrants pay an upfront fee for their release bonds—usually between 24% and 30% of the bond’s total cost. They’re also required to pay $420 per month for a GPS-tracking ankle bracelet, which makes it more difficult for migrants to go into hiding while awaiting their hearings.
But the CFPB claims that Libre’s tactics are often outrageous: immigration cases can take years to resolve, with courts across the country facing massive backlogs. Someone who may have a $10,000 bond could end up paying Libre close to twice that amount if their case takes more than a couple years to conclude.
In many cases, it would be considerably less expensive for detainees to simply front the money for the nonrefundable bonds offered by ICE itself.
“Libre presented itself as a lifeline to help people stuck in limbo at immigration facilities. But we believe it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” acting CFPB Director David Uejio said in a Monday statement. “Stopping these kinds of cash-grab schemes is part of the Bureau’s commitment to addressing racial injustice in the market.”
Mark Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, echoed Uejjio’s remarks in a statement of his own.
Libre, says Herring, “made a business out of preying on the vulnerabilities of terrified immigrants who pose no threats and only want to see their families again and fear deportation if they were to stay in federal custody,”
Both the CFPB and its attorneys general allies allege that LIbre representatives frequently threaten detainees with deportation if they do not pay their fees—even though Libre is not actually affiliated with the U.S. government or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. In reality, Libre is just a middleman and isn’t even a licensed bond company.
While New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a strongly-worded statement against Libre’s “exploitative” tactics, Libre President and CEO Mike Donovan has said the lawsuit is factually incorrect—and that Libre is, in fact, committed to helping migrants stay an arm’s length away from ICE.
“While the federal government continues to detain scores of immigrants, the [attorneys general] have ignored the fact that these detention centers operate within their own borders.” Donovan said.
Donovan suggested that the case will provide a welcome opportunity for Libre to address claims of misconduct or predatory tactics in court.
“Libre is proud of its work and believes sunlight is the best disinfectant. We plan to vigorously defend this suit and prevail at trial,” Donovan said.
Consumer watchdog sues immigration services company, claiming it preys on detainees
Virginia joins federal lawsuit against company accused of preying on immigrants
Join the conversation!