Immigration Detention Gets Reformed

A Broken Inadequate System
Immigration detention facilities scattered throughout the U.S. house 33,000 immigrants on average per day.

Immigration reform and human rights activists have long criticized these detention facilities for inhumane conditions, inadequate health care, deficient education for children and the separation of families inside the same facility. Currently the nation’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) utilizes a combination of local jails, private centers and state prisons to house immigrants ordered to detention facilities while awaiting a deportation decision from immigration authorities. These facilities not only house individuals but also entire families in jail like conditions.

Detention Procedures
For years now, ICE not only separates families from state to state but also limits the contact detainees may have with their families and attorneys and frequently change venues. Access to proper defense is becoming difficult and long term detentions are demanded for crimes that, based on the 1996 and 1997 immigration reform, made almost everyone with a criminal past subject to mandatory detention. Placing them back into detention is a form of cruel and unusual punishment taking into consideration that these individuals have already paid long term sentences in state or federal prisons for the crime for which they are right now detained.

By depriving a person of their freedom during the removal proceedings, due process is severely limited by the fact that the only family provider is incarcerated, unable to work and forcing their families to incur further debt, which will make things more difficult and prevent the person from adequate defense.
The New Direction of Detention

After years of criticism and lawsuits, ICE looks to reform and raise the standard of living for detainees by creating more oversight and eventually moving to a more centralized civil detention system. John Morton, ICE’s Assistant Secretary, states that “with these reforms, ICE will move away from our present decentralized, jail-oriented approach to a system that is wholly designed for and based on our civil detention needs. The population that we detain is different than the traditional population that is detained in a prison or a jail setting.” In addition, families will no longer be sent to the controversial Hutto detention facility in Texas, which has been criticized for its separation of families and deplorable living conditions.

Reaction to the Changes
The system must change and immigration reform must proceed and the laws must be based on real tangible dangers to the community at large and not an obstacle to any one who is less than a US Citizen without regard to the strong ties he or she has in this community. Having immigration detention reform brought to the table is a step in the right direction. However, the jury is still out on whether it will be enough.

Attorney Eliana Phelps is an experienced California immigration attorney. Her law firm provides immigration services to national and international clients and has an outstanding success rate defending immigrant crime and deportation cases.

Eliana Phelps

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