In an article today, the New York Times discusses a report by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), addressing detention and denial of due process to immigrants in detention awaiting hearings to determine their status in the US. See the report and New York Times article here: IACHR – Immigration in the US: Detention & Due Process, NYTimes – Rights Group Faults US on Detained Immigrants. In the report, the IACHR repeats the same criticisms that International Organizations have been telling the US for years: the current detention system for immigrants is inhumane and a violation of US treaty obligations. The report also criticizes not only the conditions of detention, but also the fact that the US is detaining people at all instead of releasing on bond pending decisions.
The Obama Administration has responded to these calls, but their response falls far short of truly reforming the system. This report and others have called not only for an end to the use of criminal prisons to house civil detainees, but also for an expansion of Alternatives to Detention. These alternatives are not only more humane than keeping people behind bars, but are also less expensive. Instead of investigating these options, the Obama administration is actually building new facilities to house nonviolent detainees, see my related post here: New Detention Center for Nonviolent Immigrant Detainees Being Planned. As I asked in this posting, why do you need to detainee nonviolent individuals? The simplest alternative is the use of ankle monitoring devices. These devices prevent the immigrant from disappearing but allow her to live in the community while having her status determined by the judge. They also comply with current statutes and their use may be implemented by the Obama Administration without Congressional approval. The truth of the current system is that immigrants who have committed crimes serve two sentences: One from the criminal court and the second from the immigration court. Sadly, I’ve had numerous clients who never served a day in jail for their conviction who sit for months in immigration facilities. The current system, and the minimal changes the Obama Administration is making hurt not only the immigrants and their families, but the American taxpayer as well. Suspected murderers receive bond while their cases are pending every day in this country, but people suspected of being deportable are locked away until their cases are decided. Where’s the perspective in that?