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Advocates call for shut-down of immigrant detention centers

Despite an unfortunately common perception in the United States, immigration charges are heard in administrative court, not criminal court. Still, immigrant detainees in New York and throughout the country are treated like criminals.

Recently, to call attention to the inhumane treatment of immigrant detainees, a campaign called "Expose and Close" released a number of reports. These reports claim that immigrants facing deportation charges receive substandard medical treatment and are not provided with the resources they need to work on their cases.

The reports also point out that many of the jails and prisons that house immigrant detainees are located in remote areas. That means detained immigrants have a difficult time contacting lawyers and family members -- the very people who can help detainees achieve citizenship, change their status, get asylum or fight deportation.

After publishing its findings, the "Expose and Close" campaign called for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to close 10 of its detention facilities, one of which is the Hudson County Jail in New Jersey. In one of these jails, a detained immigrant died in 2009 because he didn't receive the medical treatment he needed. His family was later awarded a settlement.

Another case involved a young man whose mother brought him to the U.S. on a visa. He was 8 years old at the time and was seeking asylum. When he ran into a technical issue with his immigration status, he was thrown in jail for 19 months. This kept him away from his 3-year-old son and wife, who is a U.S. citizen. All the while, he had to work on his immigration case from behind bars.

Finally, the young man was given asylum, but he missed over two years of his son's life.

Immigrants need to know that they are not alone in their desire to become U.S. citizens. Immigration law attorneys are in the business of helping individuals and families fight deportation charges and achieve a change in immigration status.

Source: ABC News, "10 Immigration Detention Centers Called Worst in U.S.," Ted Hesson, Nov. 16, 2012

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