US detains record number of immigrants: report

The number of immigrants detained by the US has drastically increased over the last decade, according to an AP report issued March 15. A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) database, obtain by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), indicates that on Jan. 25, 32,000 individuals were detained in the US. This is nearly five times the 6,785 that were detained in 1994.

The report also highlights the extended period of time that individuals have faced detention. ICE estimates that the average detention period is 31 days, but the report indicates that nearly 10,000 detainees have been in custody for longer. There are 18,690 immigrants that are currently in US custody who have no criminal record, 400 of whom have been detained for more than one year. According to the report, 58% of the detainees do not have lawyers. The lack of representation has exacerbated some of the issues, including determining whether ICE follows the US Supreme Court 2001 ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis that ICE has six months to release or deport immigrants after their cases have been decided. The report indicated that 950 people are currently detained past this deadline. ICE defends the detention system because it is the most effective way to ensure that individuals will appear before the court.

Last month, the ICE’s tactics during the Bush administration were criticized by the Cardozo School of Law’s Immigration Justice Clinic for being overly-aggressive and ineffective. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a directive Jan. 30 calling for review and assessment of the ICE fugitive operation teams. ICE has arrested many non-criminal undocumented immigrants in the past year, many of whom were imprisoned. Last April, Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Social Justice filed a lawsuit claiming that warrantless immigration raids violate the US Constitution. (Jurist, March 16)

See our last post on the politics of immigration.

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