Robert Hildreth, founder of the National Immigrant Bond Fund, speaks during a rally outside Casa de Maryland in Silver Spring, Md., Aug. 11. Hildreth and immigrant advocates were making a push to raise matching funds for immigrants to pay bonds so they c an be released from detention while pursuing their legal cases.
He said he developed a deep love for Latin America while working in Bolivia as an economist with the International Monetary Fund and then throughout a career based in part on buying and selling Latin American debt and property.
"Latin America has been very good for me financially and professionally," he said.
Prior to the New Bedford raids, Hildreth said his main effort at helping immigrants in the United States had been to establish La Vida, a program at his church, St. Joseph's Church in Lynn, Mass., which provides after-school tutoring, mentoring and similar assistance.
His first contribution to the New Bedford group was to kick in the money to hire someone to coordinate the work of dozens of pro-bono attorneys who were helping the arrested immigrants and their families, he explained.
When he realized those arrested weren't even in the same part of the country as their attorneys, he offered to help a few of them pay their bonds. A few grew to 37, whose release from detention was made possible with Hildreth's money.
Since then his understanding has grown regarding the difficulties faced by immigrants caught up in workplace raids and the absurdities of how the system works.
"It cost the government $200,000 in airfare to transfer everyone to Texas" from New Bedford, he said. And every time someone paid their bond, the government had to pay to move that person back to Massachusetts.
At the press conference, he likened the offense -- using false identification -- with which many immigrants were charged in another massive raid at a meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa, in May to what many college students do when they use a phony ID to get into a bar.
He asked what would happen if college bars were raided in the same manner and those arrested shipped to detention centers thousands of miles away while their cases were processed.
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