Detention centers isolate illegal immigrants and deny them rights, report says


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Illegal immigrants held in federal detention centers in the United States are mostly isolated from immigration attorneys and not informed on their rights, a new study finds. The Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center surveyed detention centers nationwide and found that 78% of detainees were prohibited calls to lawyers.

Our story from the Tribune Washington Bureau reports: ‘More than 80% of detainees were in facilities that were isolated and beyond the reach of legal aid organizations, resulting in heavy caseloads of 100 detainees per immigration attorney, the survey found. Ten percent of detainees were held in facilities in which they had no access at all to legal aid groups.’


The full report is available here.

Immigration detention facilities place detainees in isolation, putting their health and life at risk, rights advocates have said. Such findings have been reached by Amnesty International (see the report ‘Jailed Without Justice’) and Human Rights Watch (see the report ‘Detained and Dismissed’).

Numerous cases of deaths inside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention system have garnered national media attention. A transgender woman, Victoria Arellano, died in detention in 2007 in San Pedro, Calif., for lack of access to AIDS medications. Picked up at traffic stops or workplace raids, immigrants are detained in any of the 350 federal centers, which are mostly located in sparsely populated areas. Detainees are often transferred far from their attorneys or doctors, and from their homes and families.

Detention and deportation of undocumented migrants in the United States has risen under President Obama, but the ProPublica news organization recently reported that policy is also shifting to reducing deportations of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes. Obama said during his presidential campaign that comprehensive immigration reform would be one of the top priorities of his first year in office. But the Obama administration has put the issue on the table for lack of reliable support among Republicans in Congress and because of division within the White House over immigration reform.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City