Press Release

Senators Hertzberg & Durazo Introduce Bail and Immigration Consumer Protection Act of 2020

SB 960, sponsored by CHIRLA and CLICC, would strengthen protections for consumers and immigrant families who seek bail and immigration bonds

February 11, 2020

SACRAMENTO — Today, Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) introduced SB 960 with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) and the California Low-Income Consumer Coalition (CLICC). SB 960 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 during some of the most stressful moments of their lives – while their own or a loved one’s liberty is at stake, and almost always without representation. For immigrant families who face a basic English-language barrier, this 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,” said Senator Hertzberg. “But when it comes to securing an immigration bond, or a family who has someone incarcerated, guess what? 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,” said Senator Durazo, the joint author of the measure. “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.”

"Building on the progress that California has made to protect and integrate immigrants, we are proud and excited to be a proud sponsor of legislation to protect immigrants from long-standing predatory practices from the immigration bail-bond industry,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA. “This bill ensures that the immigration bail bond industry abides by the same protections stipulated by state law governing other bond industry."

“Consumer protection laws in this state are meant to cover all Californians,” said Ted Mermin, director of the CLICC. “There is no exception that says ‘Immigrants aren’t covered’ or ‘Families who paid to get their loved one out of jail aren’t covered.’ California law protects all of us.” 

Bet Tzedek, a non-profit law firm that provides legal aid to more than 40,000 people each year and is a member of CLICC, was present for the announcement of the bill in Los Angeles on Monday. Diego Cartagena, President & CEO of Bet Tzedek, commented, “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. This has allowed these companies to impose confusing, complex, and often unfair contracts on low-income consumers, many times in a language they cannot understand and without the benefit of having an attorney to assist them. 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.”

California’s bail and immigration bond industries have repeatedly avoided regulation under the State’s consumer financial protection laws. This bill would right that wrong.

Media Contact: Katie Hanzlik
Katie.Hanzlik@sen.ca.gov
Communications Director
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 313
(916) 651-4018