Stuck Between a Rock and U.S. Immigration Policy

Sarnata Reynolds, AIUSA’s policy and campaign director for refugee and migrant rights, spoke at a press teleconference on Thursday July 30th, 2009, set to discuss the bills presented by Senators Menendez and Gillibrand: “Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Detention Act” and “Strong STANDARDS Act.” These new bills stand to drastically improve plight of detained US citizens and immigrants. The bills also require immigration authorities to ensure that U.S. citizens and other vulnerable populations such as children are informed of their rights when arrested, are considered for release and are treated humanely while detained.

Over the last twelve months, I have met with dozens of people detained in local jails, privately contracted centers, and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) facilities across the United States. Their arbitrary, prolonged and in some cases, indefinite, detention is shameful. Just a few weeks ago in Minnesota, I met two immigrants who had gone an entire year without ever being outside. Twelve months. The county jails they are held in are not designed for long-term detainees, and they have no outdoor facilities. One of the men stated, “deportation is supposed to be a civil procedure, but there’s nothing civil about it.”

In June, I went to Texas and met a man from Maryland who had been granted a $5000 bond by an immigration judge. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorney appealed the decision and invoked what is called the “automatic stay” – a procedure that gives ICE the authority to ignore an immigration judge’s decision while it pursues an appeal. For eight months the man languished in jail. Finally, in early July the administrative appellate body agreed with the immigration judge and ordered his release on a $5000 bond. During the eight months this breadwinner was detained, his family became destitute and now they don’t have the necessary $5000 to bond him out.

These stories are not anomalies. They represent the experiences of thousands of immigrants who are locked up right now across the U.S. They are mothers and fathers, breadwinners and caretakers, community leaders, human rights defenders and scholars. They build houses and raise other people’s children, only to be ripped away from their own.

Immigration detention is a crutch that props up a broken, clumsy and inhumane enforcement policy. It is a poor substitution for smart immigration law, and reform of the entire system is desperately needed.

ICE will say that the average detention stay is 37 days, but this statistic is skewed. It includes the people who agree to be deported almost immediately after being arrested, and this accounts for tens of thousands of people every year. The reality is that if an individual chooses to fight deportation: because he/she is a US citizen, fears persecution, or is not in fact deportable, the person faces months and years of detention.

In our report, Jailed Without Justice, Amnesty International documented over 100 cases in which individuals were detained for years, until they were ultimately found not deportable. These individuals don’t get those years back, and the US taxpayer will not recoup the massive cost of these needless detentions.

While Congress has funded alternatives to detention because they have been shown to be effective and significantly less expensive than detaining people, there is concern that ICE is using these funds for programs such as electronic monitoring to supervise individuals who are eligible for release rather than for individuals who would otherwise be detained.

Secure alternatives to detention should be considered in all cases, and if some form of custody is deemed necessary, they should be the norm for pregnant women, sick seniors, and nursing mothers. This is not the currently the case. In fact, in the summer of 2008, a nine months pregnant woman was detained and forced to undergo labor while shackled to a hospital bed. An officer remained in the room during the entire labor. There was no reason to believe that this heavily pregnant woman posed a flight risk or a danger. At most, she should have been placed in a secure alternative program. She was locked up.

Although the Department of Homeland Security has enacted standards for the treatment of people subject to immigration detention, these standards are not legally enforceable – and as was reported by Amnesty International, and reinforced this week in two more reports, transgressions of the standards occur frequently and with impunity. Despite this reality, just a few days ago the Obama administration declined to independently enact enforceable standards, stating that the current system is functioning well. As anyone who has been detained will tell you, the standards are not working.

Legislation that provides a framework for safe, humane and thoughtful detention policy is desperately needed, and the two bills introduced by Senator Menendez and his colleagues today meet these requirements. Amnesty International USA applauds Senators Menendez, Kennedy and Gillibrand for sponsoring these vital pieces of legislation, and Rep. Roybal Allard for her bill, introduced earlier this year. As the U.S. Supreme Court stated in an immigration detention case it decided in 2001, “Freedom from imprisonment— from government custody, detention, or other forms of physical restraint – lies at the heart of the liberty [the due process] clause protects.” This truth is not reflected in current U.S. law and policy. It is time to reform them.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

27 thoughts on “Stuck Between a Rock and U.S. Immigration Policy

  1. As our rights are infringed upon by our own government, so Americans and those here legally will never benefit from a decent health care plan, owing to the abomination called ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. By an Act in United States Congress passed in 1986, Hospital and ambulance services must provide care to anyone needing emergency treatment in spite of citizenship, legal status or capacity to pay. The predicament being that 20 million plus illegal immigrant families are using this law, for even minor ailments such as the common cold. Why should foreign nationals sign up for health care or anything, when they can get Taxpayers to pay for it all..?
    But this is not just an American dilemma, as it has been forcibly imposed on subjects of the European Union. This is causing a major derailment in the EU, because both legal and illegal entrants are stealing away the single payer medical care providers, to the citizens who have paid into the system from the time they first started work.

    A decent controlled governmental health care benefit, can—NEVER–be established, when a startling report disclosed the details of a cloaked meeting between nationwide businesses and open-borders groups working under the radical cover of the IMMIGRATIONWORKSUSA a lobbying group. The secret Capitol Hill National Summit" took place last month and revealed the sinister intention behind the lobbying entities efforts.
    Tamar Jacoby, who runs ImmigrationWorksUSA, kicked off the conference by stating the true aspiration of the coalition. The basic target is to promote THE FREE FLOW OF LABOR INTO THE USA, with—AS ALWAYS– the taxpayer being the beneficiary for corporate welfare. They want expedited cheap labor, where no American worker—NEED APPLY!

    WE MUST ACT NOW, OR IT WILL BE TOO LATE! These special interest lobbyists are well furnished with money from corporate America. We must empower mandated E-Verify as part of the Save Act, where everybody is screened in the workplace. Call your lawmaker TODAY! at 202-224-3121 I Want a health care system–even government run. BUT IT"S SURE TO FAIL, IF TAXES ARE BEING EXTORTED TO PAY FOR FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS?

    Millions of phone calls from angry Americans are jamming the Washington Switchboards. It is making these pandering politicians to corporate welfare, very anxious. Support for the bi-partisan E-VERIFY PART OF THE SAVE Act, which will expand E-Verify and protect American Workers! We must focus on the monolithic problem in terminating illegal immigrants-and the jobs that attract illegal aliens. WE WILL ALWAYS BE PAYING FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS, UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING NOW? Many GOP members are against a Path to citizenship for lawbreakers, so we mostly need the phones ringing in the ears of Democrats, who see the millions of illegal aliens as a positive voting block. WE MUST STOP IT NOW OF SUFFER FROM IRREVERSIBLE POPULATION GROWTH.

    DEMAND NO AMNESTY! NO FAMILY UNIFICATION KNOWN AS CHAIN MIGRATION! BUILD THE ORIGINAL FENCE! NO MORE HEALTH CARE OR ANY OTHER KIND OF BENEFITS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. CLOSE THE BORDER AND STATION THE NATIONAL GUARD. $2.5 TRILLION DOLLARS, JUST IN RETIREMENT BENEFITS? Learn uncorrupted facts at NUMBERSUSA.

  2. I got it. You hate "illegal" immigrants. Now, read the article I posted and learn something for a change. Thanks.

  3. I know how the "system" works, my bother-in-law got his house surrounded by ICE at 7a.m. on a Saturday morning in Maryland. He was drug out and humiliated like a terrorist. His only crime – wanting a family in America, with a house & kids, the actual reason they took him is unclear. He works, doesn't do bad things like drink or do drugs, nice home, nice car, beautiful girlfriend, who was fixing to become his wife. Why him? Over some STUPID papers, every since 9/11/01 the Hispanic people have paid the price for the loss of life on American soil, with their own lives, both young and old, their dignity, and their civil liberties And if you don't think they pay with their lives, go to the desserts in Arizona, where bodies are found everyday. PEOPLE DIE TO COME TO AMERICA AND GET TREATED WORSE THAN ANIMALS. Every Hispanic you see here, you should show them respect…YOU COULD NOT EVEN BEGIN TO IMAGINE THEIR TERRIFYING JOURNEY TO GET HERE, JUST SO THEY CAN BE TREATED LIKE DIRT!!!

  4. I understand you, Brittancus. We should have not let the woman giving birth be shackled to a *hospital* bed. She should have, instead, been left on her cot to deliver the baby herself in her cell, and if she or the baby died, eh, at least we tax payers didn't have to pay for her help!

    We need to re-engrave part of the sonnet on the Statue of Liberty considering the attitudes of many people in this country.

    "Give me your tired (as long as we deem them fit to be citizens), your poor (as long as they can afford to pay a lot of money (for them) to become citizens…eventually),
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (as long as there aren't too many),
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore (as long as they're scientists or in some other really important profession).
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me (as long as they match all criteria above),
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door! (Don't trip coming in, you might get dirty and then we'll have to kick you back out.)"

    Oh, and by the way? A lot of those illegal immigrants pay taxes under false SSNs, taxes that go into the government and for which they get no returns.

  5. As our rights are infringed upon by our own government, so Americans and those here legally will never benefit from a decent health care plan, owing to the abomination called ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. By an Act in United States Congress passed in 1986, Hospital and ambulance services must provide care to anyone needing emergency treatment in spite of citizenship, legal status or capacity to pay. The predicament being that 20 million plus illegal immigrant families are using this law, for even minor ailments such as the common cold. Why should foreign nationals sign up for health care or anything, when they can get Taxpayers to pay for it all..?
    But this is not just an American dilemma, as it has been forcibly imposed on subjects of the European Union. This is causing a major derailment in the EU, because both legal and illegal entrants are stealing away the single payer medical care providers, to the citizens who have paid into the system from the time they first started work.

    A decent controlled governmental health care benefit, can—NEVER–be established, when a startling report disclosed the details of a cloaked meeting between nationwide businesses and open-borders groups working under the radical cover of the IMMIGRATIONWORKSUSA a lobbying group. The secret Capitol Hill National Summit” took place last month and revealed the sinister intention behind the lobbying entities efforts.
    Tamar Jacoby, who runs ImmigrationWorksUSA, kicked off the conference by stating the true aspiration of the coalition. The basic target is to promote THE FREE FLOW OF LABOR INTO THE USA, with—AS ALWAYS– the taxpayer being the beneficiary for corporate welfare. They want expedited cheap labor, where no American worker—NEED APPLY!

    WE MUST ACT NOW, OR IT WILL BE TOO LATE! These special interest lobbyists are well furnished with money from corporate America. We must empower mandated E-Verify as part of the Save Act, where everybody is screened in the workplace. Call your lawmaker TODAY! at 202-224-3121 I Want a health care system–even government run. BUT IT”S SURE TO FAIL, IF TAXES ARE BEING EXTORTED TO PAY FOR FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS?

    Millions of phone calls from angry Americans are jamming the Washington Switchboards. It is making these pandering politicians to corporate welfare, very anxious. Support for the bi-partisan E-VERIFY PART OF THE SAVE Act, which will expand E-Verify and protect American Workers! We must focus on the monolithic problem in terminating illegal immigrants-and the jobs that attract illegal aliens. WE WILL ALWAYS BE PAYING FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS, UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING NOW? Many GOP members are against a Path to citizenship for lawbreakers, so we mostly need the phones ringing in the ears of Democrats, who see the millions of illegal aliens as a positive voting block. WE MUST STOP IT NOW OF SUFFER FROM IRREVERSIBLE POPULATION GROWTH.

    DEMAND NO AMNESTY! NO FAMILY UNIFICATION KNOWN AS CHAIN MIGRATION! BUILD THE ORIGINAL FENCE! NO MORE HEALTH CARE OR ANY OTHER KIND OF BENEFITS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. CLOSE THE BORDER AND STATION THE NATIONAL GUARD. $2.5 TRILLION DOLLARS, JUST IN RETIREMENT BENEFITS? Learn uncorrupted facts at NUMBERSUSA.

  6. I got it. You hate “illegal” immigrants. Now, read the article I posted and learn something for a change. Thanks.

  7. I know how the “system” works, my bother-in-law got his house surrounded by ICE at 7a.m. on a Saturday morning in Maryland. He was drug out and humiliated like a terrorist. His only crime – wanting a family in America, with a house & kids, the actual reason they took him is unclear. He works, doesn’t do bad things like drink or do drugs, nice home, nice car, beautiful girlfriend, who was fixing to become his wife. Why him? Over some STUPID papers, every since 9/11/01 the Hispanic people have paid the price for the loss of life on American soil, with their own lives, both young and old, their dignity, and their civil liberties And if you don’t think they pay with their lives, go to the desserts in Arizona, where bodies are found everyday. PEOPLE DIE TO COME TO AMERICA AND GET TREATED WORSE THAN ANIMALS. Every Hispanic you see here, you should show them respect…YOU COULD NOT EVEN BEGIN TO IMAGINE THEIR TERRIFYING JOURNEY TO GET HERE, JUST SO THEY CAN BE TREATED LIKE DIRT!!!

  8. Dear Rebecca, let's spare ourselvess the tasteless task of reengraving MS Liberty's tired text.

    See which way she's facing.

    europe.

    That's my guess anyway.

    All this time she's been looking out at, talking to, europe, where she came from, where Britannicus with his finesounding imperial nom probably came from.

    That's why she sounds so nice to white folks.

    Way the darker people Lisa's talking of come from, indio places South, they face Ms Liberty's other end — & get to hear, as it were, a different melody.

  9. I understand you, Brittancus. We should have not let the woman giving birth be shackled to a *hospital* bed. She should have, instead, been left on her cot to deliver the baby herself in her cell, and if she or the baby died, eh, at least we tax payers didn’t have to pay for her help!

    We need to re-engrave part of the sonnet on the Statue of Liberty considering the attitudes of many people in this country.

    “Give me your tired (as long as we deem them fit to be citizens), your poor (as long as they can afford to pay a lot of money (for them) to become citizens…eventually),
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (as long as there aren’t too many),
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore (as long as they’re scientists or in some other really important profession).
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me (as long as they match all criteria above),
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door! (Don’t trip coming in, you might get dirty and then we’ll have to kick you back out.)”

    Oh, and by the way? A lot of those illegal immigrants pay taxes under false SSNs, taxes that go into the government and for which they get no returns.

  10. Dear Rebecca, let’s spare ourselvess the tasteless task of reengraving MS Liberty’s tired text.

    See which way she’s facing.

    europe.

    That’s my guess anyway.

    All this time she’s been looking out at, talking to, europe, where she came from, where Britannicus with his finesounding imperial nom probably came from.

    That’s why she sounds so nice to white folks.

    Way the darker people Lisa’s talking of come from, indio places South, they face Ms Liberty’s other end — & get to hear, as it were, a different melody.

  11. You're right…

    We could just turn the Statue of Liberty to face south? Oh, the fit people would throw.

    I still like my revision, though. We could just print it out and tape it over the engraving? Far less trouble.

    I hope this frame of mind changes someday. It would make the US a lot better place to live. If we legalized these people, they would all be paying taxes and companies couldn't give them lower than minimum wages. People might care if they're killed… Sadly, the scapegoating of the poor and illegal is so thick in our country… We need to find a really strong pickaxe to dig through it.

  12. Besides… they're primary in the land that we, oh, *illegally* took from them, really. We got Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico essentially by just moving enough people into the areas and then claiming them as our own.

  13. You’re right…

    We could just turn the Statue of Liberty to face south? Oh, the fit people would throw.

    I still like my revision, though. We could just print it out and tape it over the engraving? Far less trouble.

    I hope this frame of mind changes someday. It would make the US a lot better place to live. If we legalized these people, they would all be paying taxes and companies couldn’t give them lower than minimum wages. People might care if they’re killed… Sadly, the scapegoating of the poor and illegal is so thick in our country… We need to find a really strong pickaxe to dig through it.

  14. Besides… they’re primary in the land that we, oh, *illegally* took from them, really. We got Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico essentially by just moving enough people into the areas and then claiming them as our own.

  15. Your second mail, dear Rebecca, is even better than your first.

    As for Ms Libs, i passed a billboard with a shot of her the other day holding up her frozen icecream cone, & the look on her face struck me as being so blind, brutal & unfeeling, so remote, forbidding & uncaring, so IMPERIAL in expression, that your wellmeant revision of her speech, Rebecca, might end up making her look like a ventriloquist's dummy in need of facial surgery.

    Your wish to cut through prejudice with a pickaxe ( as it so richly merits ) reminds me of an old Indian cartoon i once saw in a Mohawk journal. It showed an Indian woman on a ladder intently chopping away at Ms Liberty with a hatchet — revealing through the shattered parts the soaring trunk of a gigantic totem pole Lady Liberty had apparently been constructed over to conceal !!!!

  16. Your second mail, dear Rebecca, is even better than your first.

    As for Ms Libs, i passed a billboard with a shot of her the other day holding up her frozen icecream cone, & the look on her face struck me as being so blind, brutal & unfeeling, so remote, forbidding & uncaring, so IMPERIAL in expression, that your wellmeant revision of her speech, Rebecca, might end up making her look like a ventriloquist’s dummy in need of facial surgery.

    Your wish to cut through prejudice with a pickaxe ( as it so richly merits ) reminds me of an old Indian cartoon i once saw in a Mohawk journal. It showed an Indian woman on a ladder intently chopping away at Ms Liberty with a hatchet — revealing through the shattered parts the soaring trunk of a gigantic totem pole Lady Liberty had apparently been constructed over to conceal !!!!

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