If you need legal or immigration help call: (800) 915-9175 or visit www.librebynexus.com
An issue which has continued to dominate headlines, and a topic close to heart within the state of Texas, is immigration. Many of us know friends and family who have in the past immigrated to this country, but with policies like family separation and increasingly crowded detention centers, it’s hard to understand what the immigrant experience is like today, much less what to do if someone we know finds themselves in this unfortunate situation.
This month at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) monthly breakfast, Houston’s top Hispanic Publishers sat down with event panelist and President of Nexus Services Inc., Mike Donovan. Founded in 2011, Nexus has helped reunite nearly 30,000 immigrant families that have been separated as a result of detention. As a champion of immigrant rights and immigration reform, Nexus sponsors one of the country’s leading pro-bono immigration legal services, Nexus Caridades Attorneys, working tirelessly to help immigration detainees and their families manage our complex immigration system.
Publisher: What is the reason Nexus is getting involved in Houston and in Texas?
Mike Donovan: Nexus has liberated nearly 10,000 individuals out of Houston detention facilities in the last 3 years. We were heavily engaged during the flooding that happened after Hurricane Harvey. A lot of people don’t know this, but immigrants who are on bond, who are on parole, can’t avail themselves of publicly funded assistance. If they do, their bonds can be violated. So, when there’s a disaster or something like Harvey, we go in and help evacuate people.
We help find shelters or establish shelters that aren’t publicly funded so that people can avail themselves to those emergency services without running the risk of being re-incarcerated. So, we’ve been very active in Texas.
Publisher: Tell me a little bit about what you guys can do to an individual or to a family. What kind of services can you provide them?
Mike Donovan: At the heart of Nexus Services is the access to bond money A bond is a concept that not a lot of people understand, and for good reason. because of the number companies that will host immigration bonds are so small that there’s a lot of price fixing that happens so, before Nexus, an immigrant would have to pay 100% of the bond, let’s say $20,000, they have to pay 20% premium, so $4,000 more. [Therefore] an immigrant would have to pay $24,000. And they’d have to pay a 20% premium every year their case was active. We didn’t think this made sense. Most immigrants don’t have this.
A system created through experience….
Mike Donovan had a taste of what people go through in the US justice system. When he was 18 years old and in his first year of college, he wrote a (bad) check and was arrested for a financial crime. He was given a $45,000 bond and could not pay for it, so he stayed in jail for 7 ½ months. He pled guilty to a felony to get out of jail and in a sense, that’s why Nexus does what they do. Founded on a strong belief that someone should not be required to give a large sum of money to have your case heard, Nexus recognizes most immigrants do not have the amount of money required for bail and will stand in place of that burden, priding themselves on being aggressive for clients, empowering and treating them like family.
In speaking to a group of Hispanic inmates, Donovan learned the horrors of the immigration bail process and how if one does not have 100% of the money, they cannot get out. It was then he decided his company would be committed to change that, and they have. Now, the world for immigrants and detention in the United States is completely different, thanks to Nexus. Today, every day over 30 people come out of jail through Nexus. Upon release, Nexus sets out to give their clients a different experience.
They are picked up by a Nexus employee and given the choice to pick where they would like to go out to eat. Choices are a luxury prison does not offer. Most clients of Nexus have had a very unwelcoming experience in the United States up to this point and Nexus seeks to change that.
Through Nexus, clients do not need to pay the total bond amount. On contract with Nexus, clients instead pay a fraction of the bond and can choose a monthly program fee at any point decide to pay the bond amount and end the program. The system, created by Nexus, is based on trust, accountability and respect to get individuals to a place of stability. When speaking about his model’s success rate, Donovan proudly boasts that the program has a 98% success rate, compared to the government’s success rate of 30%.
In addition to the paid program, Nexus also offers pro bono legal service.
This means that clients who have nothing can still get help. People coming over the border are being charged with unlawful entry. They are arrested, sent to federal prison and the children are removed. Our prisons are getting filled up with people who are only in search of a better life, causing not only a drastic human cost but also a real monetary cost to the public. According to Donovan, it costs $45,000 a year to house a single person in jail, a cost that is imposed on the public. Donovan talked about a lady in San Diego who had been caught at the border by immigration and arrested with her infant child. The government returned her a sick child and dropped both off at the Greyhound station in San Diego. She went to the window and said, “I need help”. The attendant gave her the Nexus phone number. Nexus exists for stories like this, with their number available in places of crisis.
That is just one example of many. Going far beyond bail securing services, Nexus services sees their job as standing up for a community of people that are dis-empowered, disconnected, and who are at a very core level represent everything that we love and hold dear about American values.
Mike Donovan: “We see ourselves as advocates. We want to change the world. We want to create a world where immigrants can be proud of being immigrants”.
Nexus also understands the need to protect client personal information and data from federal government entities that could potentially deport them or separate them again from their families.
When state attorney generals asked Nexus for personal information of the people they serve, Donovan refused. Nexus had to go to great lengths to protect their client information from ICE and the federal government to the point of suing two state attorney generals and are currently a year and millions of dollars into litigation.
Mike Donovan: “It’s we that have sued the attorney general, demanding protection for our clients, and the most amazing thing is, whether it’s New York, Virginia, the Consumer Financial Production Bureau, or the Western District of Virginia, we were successful in getting the power to redact sensitive client information. So, it was expensive, it was frustrating, God knows it’s been stressful, but we have been able to protect them.”
The vast majority of the people we serve never pay for any of the services. We provide and sponsor free legal services, we can help a person get a free immigration attorney, we can get a free criminal defense attorney, we can help a person get a free attorney to sue the jail that you were housed in, or the government that’s abusing you. What I would say to people is, don’t be afraid of asking for help and don’t assume that just because it’s bad, that you can’t get through it.
Through both personal and professional experience, Mike Donovan has seen it all. For nearly ten years, Donovan and the team at Nexus have put their money where their mouth is, fighting tirelessly to protect the rights of all humans. Pushing against the not just abusive conditions but the severe legal consequences, like federal incarceration, that greet families who now arrive to the U.S.
Unnecessary incarceration and predatory tactics against this immigrant community are among the main issues Nexus is hoping to repair. Donovan, along with his team at Nexus, has gone so far as to sue municipal, state and federal government to ensure clients’ personal records were not public, prioritizing the privacy and respect of his clients over his own reputation.
Using the saying Donovan quotes in this conversation, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Conditions will not improve without participating in the conversation or standing up with courage to take action and change things for the better. Through events like the LULAC monthly breakfast and companies like Nexus Services, Inc., we hope to, as Donovan states, “put sunlight on issues,” to foster productive conversations and ultimately affect positive change for those who need it most.
If you need help call: (800) 915-9175 or visit www.librebynexus.com