Bail Bloc, a self-described "cryptocurrency scheme against bail," is calling on the public to donate excess computing power to mine for cryptocurrency. The mined cryptocurrency will in turn be used to help bail out detained migrants.
Bail Bloc's parent organization, The New Inquiry, tweeted "We're matching all funds raised for @migrantbailfund through Bail Bloc until December 14. Download today to volunteer your computing power and get people out of ICE detention."
Under the Trump administration, there has been a marked increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions, with the agency reporting a 42 percent rise in 2017 for arrests nationwide and a 650 percent increase in workplace arrests for the 2018 fiscal year over 2017. Not to mention a mind-boggling 1,200 percent rise in courthouse arrests in New York state.
This increase in arrests has been controversial, with many accusing the administration of violating the civil rights of the arrested for political gain. After the widespread media coverage around the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy (widely referred to as the "family separation policy"), there was a groundswell of community-based efforts to reunite families. One fundraising effort, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (Raices), made headlines after raising more than $20 million to provide legal representation to detained individuals separated from their families.
Since that time, the administration has ended the practice of actively separating families, and public attention appears to have significantly dissipated.
However, while the policy of forced family separations has ended, migrants continue to be detained at significant rates. Bail Bloc attempts to offer a way for those still paying attention to contribute. Users can download the Bail Bloc software, which would transfer 10 to 50 percent of their computer's processing power to mine Monero (XMR). The Monero is then sent to Bail Bloc, converted to fiat, and transferred to the Immigrant Bail Fund monthly.
While Bail Bloc seeks to provide aid specifically to detained migrants, the organization is motivated as much by the perceived need for bail reform as by President Trump's immigration stance. In fact, Bail Bloc came into being in response to a New York Times Magazine piece, "The Bail Trap," which highlights how the bail system in the United States tends to push poorer individuals into accepting plea bargains that are typically to their detriment. "This is basically what poor people are offered as an alternative to justice," Grayson Earle, the co-creator of Bail Bloc told The Observer. "With the rise of cryptocurrencies, we wanted to take some of that speculative energy and make it do something actually useful."
In recent years, some notable efforts have been made toward bail reform. On August 28, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill abolishing cash bail in the state of California. This came after a California appellate court declared the state's cash bail system unconstitutional. New Jersey has made similar efforts, eliminating cash bail for most criminal defendants beginning in January 2017.
As of press, over 45 XMR, worth upwards of $7,000, had been mined. According to Bail Bloc, this is "enough to bail out 12 people."