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AILA Applauds the Obama Administration’s Plans to Improve the Nation’s Immigration Detention System

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09100860 (posted Oct. 8, 2009)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
CONTACT:
George Tzamaras
202-507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauds the Obama Administration's efforts to repair the "scandal-plagued" immigration detention system. According to the announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would consolidate many detainees in facilities with conditions that reflect their status as non-criminals, provide sound medical care in the facilities and establish more centralized oversight of detention centers.

According to Bernie Wolfsdorf, president of AILA, "It's encouraging that DHS is calling for improved immigration detention conditions that reflect the nature of the detained population that has soared to record levels estimated to exceed over 400,000 people. It is high time that asylum seekers fleeing persecution, breast feeding mothers, families, visa overstays, and victims of our broken immigration system no longer be warehoused, at great cost to the taxpayers in prisons alongside convicted criminals where all too often they are denied access to counsel, family members, and proper medical care."

However, AILA also believes the government's announcement failed to address a number of critical holes in the current system, including a lack of enforceable basic conditions standards; due process to ensure people are not unnecessarily detained, especially for prolonged periods of time; oversight of local police enforcement of immigration laws in the "Criminal Alien" and 287(g) programs resulting in the harassment of innocent people; and a commitment to alternatives to civil detention, especially for families.

Wolfsdorf added, "Congress must immediately enact comprehensive immigration reform that focuses not only on the conditions under which immigrants are being detained, but on why they are being detained in the first place - often for prolonged periods of time - when most of these people are positively contributing to our society but have no path to legalization. DHS needs to immediately adopt other forms of supervised release as well as respect basic due process including the right to counsel for detained persons, instead of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of productive members of our society."

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.