Adou Kouadio is from the Ivory Coast, where he claims his life was threatened after backing the former president. He crossed the U.S. border from Mexico in early 2016 and eventually lost his asylum case in immigration court.

But the government wouldn't let him out on bond during the years he was detained, and he is currently appealing the asylum ruling in federal court. Last week, a federal judge in New York found this long detention violated his right to due process and ordered a bond hearing.

On Monday, immigration judge Mimi Tsankov heard arguments from both sides about whether to let Kouadio out on bond. The detainee participated via video teleconference from the Hudson County jail (the government stopped bringing detainees to the court on Varick Street following a protest in June). Kouadio’s face and the top of his orange jumpsuit were visible on the courtroom screen as he listened to an interpreter who could translate into Twi, a language spoken in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Government attorney Fen Lu, of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), called Kouadio a flight risk who should not be released. She questioned whether one of the individuals who offered to help pay for and supervise his release really was a brother-in-law because an earlier document called him a friend. “My concern is the respondent has no meaningful ties to the community,” she said.

But Kouadio’s attorney, Craig Relles, attributed any confusion about the brother-in-law to his client’s original statements in Texas, where he didn’t have access to an interpreter. He also noted that his client had a letter attesting to his character from a social worker at the Hudson County jail, where he’s been held in ICE custody since his transfer from Texas in late 2016.

Judge Tsankov ruled $15,000 was an appropriate bond to ensure Kouadio’s return to court, higher than the $5,000-$10,000 his lawyer had sought. After the ruling, Kouadio called his brother-in-law, Mathew Adomah-Baffour, who lives in the Bronx and attended the court hearing.

“He’s happy because finally, if he gets help, he’s going to come out,” he said.

Adomah-Baffour said his sister is married to Kouadio and the couple has three children together. They moved to Ghana after Kouadio’s life was threatened for campaigning with the former Ivory Coast president, Laurent Gbagbo, but he said the threats continued.

Johnson Darko, a longtime friend from Ghana who is now a U.S. citizen living in New Jersey, also attended the court hearing. “His freedom has been violated,” he said, of Kouadio’s three years behind bars.

Darko and Adomah-Baffour both seemed stunned by the high price of the bond, which must be paid in full, unlike in criminal court, where only a portion has to be raised. Adomah-Baffour works in home health care and also drives a taxi.

"Raising $15,000 is hard but we're going to do our best and see how God can help us,” said Darko.

Relles said there would be an online fundraiser.

Immigrants are routinely released from detention on bail, but the government considers some ineligible and litigation has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court. Relles said Kouadio’s case is unique because of the way federal judge Alvin Hellerstein rebuked the government in ordering a bond hearing after three years of detention. The judge wrote, “This nation prides itself on its humanity and openness with which it treats those who seek refuge at its gates.” But his ruling only applies to Kouadio.

Nonetheless, Relles said it gives hope to other clients that if they go to a federal judge they can win.

“We are going to continue to fight to get people free from immigration detention, absolutely,” he said.

He does not know when a federal appellate panel will hear Kouadio’s appeal for asylum.

Beth Fertig is a senior reporter covering courts and legal affairs at WNYC. You can follow her on Twitter at @bethfertig.