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THE DETENTION BED MANDATE – WHAT IS IT AND WHY AREN'T WE ANGRIER?


“Imagine if Congress mandated that an arbitrary number of jail cells be filled with prisoners—regardless of the crime rate. Authorities would be required to incarcerate people, no matter the circumstances or the affront to human rights. That’s basically the state of immigration detention in the U.S.”
-The Editors of Bloomberg View, September 26, 2013

            Right now there are thousands of non-violent individuals who are being detained by ICE in private detention facilities. These numbers include the undocumented as well as the documented that the U.S. government is trying to remove from the United States. They are detained not as a result of an individualized review of the case to determine the security risk they pose to the community, but because Congress has mandated that ICE maintain a constant detention population of 34,000. Congress did not create this mandate legislatively by altering the statutory scheme, but by inserting it into an appropriations bill that funds ICE. You can read about it here, here, and here.

            How absurd is this? Congress has arbitrarily determined that ICE needs to deprive individuals of their liberty in order for the agency to be fully funded. I’m no fan of ICE, but don’t you think it knows more than Congress how to run a detention program? I have only anecdotal evidence from my conversations with ICE officials, but they don’t like this anymore than the people being detained. They have no interest in using their resources to detain an undocumented immigrant whose only violation of the law is a minor traffic offense. It consumes resources that would otherwise be dedicated to individuals who are high priority for removal - whatever that means!

            To put this whole fiasco in context let me provide an example that will hopefully get more people thinking about how ridiculous this is. First, immigration violations are civil violations of federal law. We don’t put people in jail for civil violations; we fine them or find some other way to punish them. Imagine if your municipality had some civil ordinance having to do with the color or size of your mailbox which you continually violated. The max penalty possible is $100.00 fine. Now imagine your local leaders (mayor, town council, etc.) direct the local cops to arrest and detain violators, and that they must maintain 25 people in detention at all times for such violations. Wait, there’s more! Imagine if the person who funded the local leader’s campaign runs a private jail and lobbies for such enforcement activities. What would you do? I know what I would do – different subject for different day! 

           This is exactly what is happening at the federal level!  Private corporations are lobbying Congress to privatize prisons – they call it partnership corrections…what a joke! Congress is then telling ICE – “hey you need to detain X number of people at all times and detain them with the sickos that run these partnership correction facilities concentration camps." Why aren't we angry about this?  Easy answer is that it’s not yet affecting the mainstream. Guess what though – with our changing demographics it will, and in the not too distant future! 

Comments

  1. I was a victim of this mandate. I had been in the USA legally and with not a single criminal conviction or even a traffic fine to my name. A top Atlanta Lawyer filed a stipulated voluntary departure on my behalf without my knowledge or consent. The Immigration Judge signed it and approved it in my absence. When I learned about it my lawyer told me he was not representing me anymore and tried to have me migrate to Canada. I refused and appealed my case with the Board of Immigration Appeal, a process that was to take about 4 years. While I was waiting for their decision, ICE came to pick me up from my home with all the flashing blue lights in our very quiet neighborhood. At 6:00 am in the morning when my 15 year old son was leaving the house to catch his school bus, they told him to come back and open the door for them. He complied, they told me they were taking me into immigration detention, right there in front of my children. I explained there must be some mistake because I was waiting on a BOIA decision. They told me their job was to take me in and I would have to explain my story when we got to their offices. I took my documents with me. I was taken to Downtown Atlanta and spent a day in a holding cell that was facing the Officers, mostly male, and had a toilet where everyone could see half my body while I used the open bathroom. Later in the day a whole bunch of us Latin and Black detainees were taken to a detention facilities about 4 hours outside of GA. While we were waiting at this office I noticed all the White people coming in and getting the ankle tracking devices.

    When I got to the detention center, the Oscilla County jail, the same jail where criminals were being jailed, I was placed in this windowless jail center where I was to stay for the next 2 months while my lawyer filed a motion to have my case prioritized. No detention office came to see me until after 2 weeks. She explained that her job was to process my deportation to my country unless if my lawyer could work something before she had me deported. There were only Latinas and Africans who had been picked up by ICE and if there was one or two white people in the 4 ICE detention cells, they had committed a crime to end up in there. A month later, my case was heard by the BOIA, and it was to take another month for my file to be brought in front of the judge in Atlanta who then granted my release. While in that jail, people's expensive jewelry would go missing and there was nothing anyone could do. Phone calls were so expensive and at one point we discovered the phone line for the Latin speaking people charged more than the regular English phone line. A $15 phone deposit only allowed one to make about 3 15 minute phone calls, and each call was pegged at 15 minutes whether you spoke for that long or not.

    The commissary(shop where we could buy a few items) was rumored to be owned by Mrs George Bush Senior and 1 packet of the individual Ramen Noodles was 84 cents. A whole package of these with about 6 or 8 in the package costs about $2 at Walmart. I have more stories if anyone cares to listen. But yes the above story is very true to say the very least. I even failed to get the Lawyer who messed up my case to be disciplined be the GA Bar Association due to a technicality. I am still fighting this case which the Immigration department still tries to further complicate and have suffered immensely even though I am still a law abiding individual with legal rights to be in this country.

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