Saturday, December 24, 2005

Allegations of Passaic County Jail Beating of Immigration Detainee

The Herald News printed allegations that Osama Metwaly, an immigration detainee being held in Passaic County jail, was beaten while handcuffed. The immigration detention officials deny the charges, saying that instead a man recently required medical care because the prison officials used pepper spray in a "minor" incident after the detainee resisted prison orders and all other reasonable efforts to resolve the situation failed. According to the Herald News, the allegations of a beating are supported by a handwritten statement signed by fifteen immigration detainees.

Passaic County jail was audited by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General for possible mistreatment of immigration detainees and the release of the final report has not yet happened. Immigration detainees are often held in ordinary, regular prisons in order to save money (it costs "only" $77 per day per detainee at Passaic County jail) even though immigration detainees are being held for merely civil violations, not crimes. The courts have tried to distinguish immigration violations from crimes in order to deny immigrants the right to appointed counsel and other basic rights guaranteed to all criminal defendants. Yet, strangely, some defendants in immigration court are being forcibly held in the same prisons as ordinary criminals and subjected to the same treatment as ordinary criminals. Perhaps one day courts will realize that as a matter of basic fairness and Constitutional rights, immigration courts need to be run like criminal courts -- and provide the basic rights guaranteed to all criminal defendants.

As far as the allegations in the Herald News, perhaps over time it will become clear whether the prison guards acted appropriately or inappropriately. It is too early to tell right now.


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