May 17, 1999
The Honorable Janet Reno
U.S. Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Tenth & Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
425 Eye Street, NW
Washington DC 20536
Dear Madam Attorney General and Commissioner Meissner:
The undersigned organizations strongly oppose the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Central Region Hub Site Detention and Removal Plan, and welcome your reconsideration of this ill-conceived plan.
We are opposed to any plan, like the Hub Site Detention and Removal Plan, that would centralize the processing of detained immigrants -- those taken into custody at the border, in the interior, and asylum seekers --based not upon the place of apprehension, family or community ties, but rather on the national origin of detainees. Ostensibly, this plan was supposed to maximize limited agency resources and increase efficiency. However, while we are unconvinced, if not skeptical, about any "resource maximization" outcomes, we are convinced that this plan violates civil rights and due process concerns, is unfair to detainees, and will split families apart.
The INS has stated that the goal of this effort is to "increase efficiencies" with respect to the detention, removal proceedings, and removal of removable aliens. The proposed plan’s cost savings appear to hinge upon reducing the amount of time an alien will remain in INS custody by streamlining the removal process. Yet, the plan appears to do little more than put the alien closer to the consulate that will process his removal documentation, a minor issue at the end of the removal process.
However, what this plan clearly would do, and the reason for our strong opposition, is that it would take those detained and "hubbed" away from their families, communities, social service networks, and legal counsel and representation. These vital networks will then be unable to offer assistance, or, at best, will be able to offer only limited assistance at a far greater cost.
We are concerned particularly that foreign nationals who have been "hubbed" would be deprived of adequate legal counsel and representation, largely denied access to attorneys familiar with their cases and circumstances, or with how the law would apply in the relevant jurisdiction. Removal proceedings will be hampered because of the inability to access witnesses, documents, and evidence, and made far more complicated by the loss of family assistance. In addition, those criminals with convictions with the potential of being reversed or pardoned will be unable to access the courts or counsel familiar with the relevant state process. In all too many cases, the proposed "streamlining" of court proceedings (through videoconferencing or telephone witness examination) will lead to confusion and further delay rather than efficiency.
Civil rights and due process must not fall victim to the agency’s needs to balance an increased workload with limited resources. Given the negative consequences of the Hub Site Detention and Removal Plan, we urge you to develop alternative plans that take into account our concerns.
American Civil Liberties Union
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Asian Pacific American Legal Center
Ethiopian Community Development Council
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Immigration and Refugee Services of America/U.S. Committee for Refugees
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington Office
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium
National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO)
National Council of La Raza
New York Association for New Americans, Inc. (NYANA)
United Jewish Communities
United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
Washington Alliance for Immigrant and Refugee Justice
© 1999, American Immigration Lawyers Association