Monday, May 28, 2007

Detention Watch Network Week of Action

May 28 to June 2, 2007 is Detention Watch Network's Week of Action to raise to Congressional representatives the problems with immigration detention and the immigration laws today. DWN points out that the number of people detained by ICE has exploded from around 7,500 in 1994 to around 20,500 in 2002. And under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, it may grow to 62,000 by 2010. All this for what is a mere civil violation -- almost all violations of the immigration laws are not crimes.

Most detainees (57%) are held in county and city prisons that ICE rents out to hold immigration detainees. About half of the detainees have no criminal record -- the rest already paid their debt by completing their entire criminal sentence.

DWN points out that the problems include that it is not a wise use of taxpayer's dollars to spend a billion on detention, there an inadequate safeguards of detainees' rights because courts have not been granting them court-appointed lawyers (resulting in 84% going ahead with their cases without a lawyer), and detention policies are damaging asylum-seekers who have survived torture overseas just to be put in jail-like detention centers in the US.

These rules affect real people -- for example, DWN reports how Warren Joseph is facing deportation to Trinidad and being separated from his mother, sister, and four daughters -- all of whom are United States citizens. The reason is that after serving the army for 8 years with green card status (receiving 13 achievement medals), he returned with post traumatic stress disorder and turned to alcoholism, smoking, and drug use. In 2001, Warren was convicted on a gun and tobacco charge and given two years probation, which he violated in 2003 and spent six months in jail. Instead of releasing him after 6 months, ICE has detained him for over 2 more years (four times his criminal sentence). Despite all of his good qualities, the harsh immigration laws prohibit any immigration judge from considering pardoning the immigration consequence of the crime he committed.


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