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AILA Doc. No. 21031937 | Dated October 3, 2021
Congress has passed a stopgap spending bill, H.R. 5305, the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act, to avert a government shutdown. This will continue the same funding levels for immigration detention and enforcement from the prior administration until final spending bills are passed. The bill did not continue additional funding for detention or the flexibility to use different funds for detention and removal. The bill funds the government through December 3, 2021.
Created in 2003, Immigration Customs & Enforcement (ICE) has over 22,000 full-time employees, with a total annual budget of more than $10 billion. The agency has three core operations: Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA). Immigration enforcement, including taking people into custody, is the largest single area of responsibility for ICE. Inside detention centers, ICE holds noncitizens from the interior of the country and those transferred from the border.
Noncitizens are detained across America in a sprawling network of private and public detention facilities. Most of these facilities operate through contracts between ICE (or, less commonly, the U.S. Marshals Service – USMS) and localities for the purposes of detaining noncitizens. In some cases, localities subsequently sub-contract services for operating detention facilities to private prison companies. In other instances, localities reserve space in local, county, or state jails and prisons for the purposes of detaining immigrants. In all cases, localities are financially incentivized to detain individuals.
Immigration detention facilities, regardless of the type of contracts, have been the sites of serious and repeated allegations of abuse, including allegations of sexual assault, violations of religious freedom, medical neglect, and the punitive use of solitary confinement. In 2020, the U.S. had the highest number of deaths in ICE adult detention since 2005.
Civil immigration detention works mainly to facilitate to deportation. Access to counsel is frequently an issue. As is, the ability to receive crucial legal and medical information in a noncitizen’s primary language. For example, Indigenous, African, and Caribbean speakers often report the lack of interpreter/translation access while in detention.
Detention is overused and too often implemented as part of punitive policies to deter immigration and against noncitizens who are not a flight risk or a threat to public safety, including people seeking protection in this country. For all these reasons and more, AILA is calling for the dramatic reduction and eventual phasing out of immigration detention.
As part of our efforts to reduce and phase out immigration detention, AILA and coalition partners are demanding significant cuts to the ICE budget. Instead, Congress should fund community-based case management programs to be operated by experienced nonprofit immigration and refugee service providers or other nonprofits with experience in case-management focused social service programs. These programs would replace physical custody and “alternative to detention” programs, which rely on electronic monitoring, such as the use of ankle monitors. Provision of legal representation through these providers will also be key.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council launched the Campaign as a joint initiative to bring new allies and volunteers to the fight for fairness and due process for the tens of thousands of people in immigration detention, most of whom lacked legal counsel.
For more information on how you can connect to this network of advocates and volunteers, and to read the stories of impacted people:
Until detention is phase out, AILA will continue to provide legal representatives with information and resources to advocate for their detained clients. Please find resources from our national committees, partners, and membership to support this crucial work.
Compilation of media and writings on the need to end immigration detention in the United States.
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 21031937.
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