There is a great piece today on WNYC today about Immigration and Customs Enforcement's detention of aliens awaiting immigration trials or removal. I recommend taking a listen. The reality is that there are currently more than 35,000 people in ICE detention awaiting removal, many of whom are long time lawful permanent residents with children, families, and businesses. Most of them should not be detained at all and doing so is a waste of taxpayer funds and inhumane.
I am currently representing an individual who has been ICE detention since last November. He has seven (7) children, came to the U.S. in 1992 and was convicted of simple possession of a narcotic more than 12 years ago. ICE has refused to release my client. ICE often refuses to release these individuals under a law they claim makes their detention "mandatory". Yet thousands are regularly released even so each year. Sadly, who is released is often just a function of which officer is assigned to a case or which district one is arrested in. My client is in New Jersey, a notoriously difficult district and thus his continued detention. At approximately $150 per day, the taxpayers have now spent upwards of $55,000 detaining my client. He lost his home, job and two of his children have devolved into a deep depression, the youngest just 6 years old. Interestingly, he was initially sentenced to no jail time in connection with the original offense.
Immigration detention policies are out of control and inhumane. My client is just one 1,250 people detained by ICE in Essex County. My experience is that just a very few of those individuals actually present any risk to the community, and most have some means to resolve and retain their immigration status at a trial. Nonetheless, ICE refuses to exercise discretion and continues to detain many such individuals. My client is just one example. Granted, there are those few immigrants who do represent a danger or are a high flight risk, and we all agree they should be detained pending completion of removal proceedings.
The recent piece by Sarah Gonzalez on WNYC, highlights the vast use of solitary confinement by ICE against immigrants in their custody. Again, many of those individuals have no criminal history, or have been convicted on non-violent offenses which resolved years ago, placed in solitary confinement for spurious reasons and held in criminal jails often for years. The WNYC piece is a rare story in the news about immigrants in jail. Very few Americans are aware of the system in place for detaining immigrants and the WNYC story should open their eyes to the injustice and financial costs involved.
Here is a link to the WNYC story:
Here is some more information about ICE detention at the Essex County Jail in New Jersey: