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Family visits decline when immigrants held in private facilities

A new study addresses two issues important to our Staten Island immigration and naturalization law blog: families and detention. Researchers have determined that family visits decline when an immigrant is held at a privately run detention facility.

A sociology professor and PhD student of criminology surveyed 462 parents who were held for 6 months or longer at four different detention facilities. Three of the facilities were jails and one was a privately owned, for-profit facility under contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

The researchers concluded that unequal access to visitation from family members is "a troubling form of legal inequality" that could have significant negative effects on the detainees.

Approximately 6 out of 10 detainees nationwide are held at for-profit facilities, with the rest housed in city or county jails. Many observers are troubled by those numbers, primarily because immigration detention is a civil process rather than a criminal process and detention is not to be punitive.

However, the reality for many who are held at either public or private facilities is that they lose their freedom for months while waiting for removal proceedings, according to a media report on the research.

Researchers noted that detention is essentially incarceration, except that immigration detainees don't know how long they will remain locked up and do not get public defenders.

Many detainees opt to have an immigration attorney at their side in removal proceedings. A Staten Island immigration lawyer will discuss with you your situation and your best legal options.

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