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ACLU: Homeland Security and ICE ignoring the advice they sought

The ACLU recently sent an open letter to the Department of Homeland Security to urge action on the inhumane detention of non-criminal immigrants, especially families. The letter, which was signed by 153 other human rights and immigrant advocacy groups, didn't ask immigration authorities to undertake some liberal plan. It simply asks the organization to follow the recommendations of experts the agency itself hired for advice on the issue.

The issue is urgent. As we mentioned in our last post, perhaps tens of thousands of Central American families and children have come to the U.S. fleeing rampant violence. Unlike the classic economic migrant who comes to America for a better job, many of those arriving from Central America may be eligible for asylum.

Instead of being helped, cared for, and considered for asylum, these immigrants find themselves trapped in inhumane detention centers with no due process. Most of them will be summarily deported without much opportunity for a fair hearing.

Experts recommend ending family detention, use of private facilities

According to the ACLU's letter, both the DHS and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement each commissioned recommendations on these issues from experts -- experts they chose. The two expert panels reported back on their findings late last year, and the ACLU urges these recommendations be implemented by the end of January:

  • End the detention of families for immigration purposes altogether. (This was the top recommendation.)
  • Put a moratorium on expanding any type of immigration detention.
  • Immediately freeze and begin to decrease the use of immigration detention facilities.
  • Close down -- at the least -- the four privately run detention centers with the worst conditions.
  • End and/or do not renew contracts with county jails that refuse to offer the additional protections for detainees under ICE's 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards.
  • Expand the successful community-based supervision program developed as an ICE pilot program, which is more effective, more humane and less costly than immigration detention.

Due process of law assumes that each and every person's case must be considered individually. Under a constitutional regime like the one we cherish, we simply don't warehouse people without offering them any real opportunity to challenge their detention.

Although we're already halfway through January, we still hope DHS will implement these recommendations immediately.

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