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AILA Statement Regarding Hearing on “Problems with ICE Interrogation, Detention and Removal Procedures”

On February 13, 2008, the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law held a hearing entitled "Problems with ICE interrogation, detention, and removal procedures." Multiplying immigration raids across the country, the dramatic expansion of immigration detention, and the lack of any safety valve to allow non-citizens to remain in the U.S. legally have created a system rife with abuse. AILA welcomes this opportunity to highlight the importance of enhancing procedural safeguards within our immigration system to ensure that the due process rights of everyone in America are respected.

AILA commends the Department of Homeland Security for implementing a series of reforms to ensure non-citizens in its custody are treated humanely including the issuance of humanitarian guidelines for large worksite raids and recent directives supporting the favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion in cases where nursing mothers, sole caregivers and others merit release from detention. While the issuance of this guidance is an important first step toward ensuring fair and humane treatment, the hearing highlighted the need to ensure the Department's guidance is consistently followed by DHS officials in the field. AILA encourages DHS to work collaboratively with Congress to implement additional reforms that will ensure detainees and individuals encountered during raids are treated humanely including enhanced training requirements and the issuance of regulations regarding the treatment of detainees.

AILA is deeply concerned about testimony at the hearing regarding humanitarian and civil rights abuses against detainees. Specifically, inadequate due process protections in our current system and a failure by the federal government to guarantee the protections of current law have led to the following troubling developments during recent ICE enforcement actions:

  • U.S. citizens, the mentally ill, children and other vulnerable individuals who should not be in ICE custody have been mistakenly detained.
  • Both legal residents and U.S. citizens report having been approached by immigration officials during worksite and residential raids on the basis of their race or ethnicity.
  • ICE officials have allegedly entered private homes in some residential raids without a warrant and questioned individuals about their immigration status.
  • Mothers responsible for caring for their small children reportedly have been detained and transferred to detention facilities thousands of miles away from their families.
  • Detainees have been transferred away from their attorneys in countless cases making it difficult to defend themselves in court.

Explosive growth in the numbers of non-citizens in immigration detention has also resulted in inconsistent and sometimes poor conditions of confinement. Although federal immigration authorities adopted generalized detention standards in 2000, these standards have not been consistently enforced. Despite the Department of Homeland Security's monitoring of conditions, widespread reports of abuse persist.

Our current immigration system does not include many of the basic procedural rules that would ensure individuals with valid claims to relief from deportation are permitted to remain in the U.S. Core due process protections were stripped from our immigration laws in 1996 resulting in the mandatory detention and deportation of many long-term permanent residents. Procedures such as expedited and administrative removal result in individuals being removed from the U.S. without a hearing. In many cases, our current immigration system does not permit immigration judges to consider individual equities such as the length of time a person has been in the U.S., their ties to the community, U.S. citizen family members and dependents, or whether the individual has a job and pays taxes.

Our government should ensure that the tenets of due process that underpin American society are respected. We must transform the chaos and lawlessness of our current immigration crisis into a system that respects due process, law and order and confronts the human and economic reality of millions of undocumented workers in America.

AILA calls on Congress to reform these laws to ensure that due process is respected and that government officials and judges have the discretion to ensure that individuals with strong connections to the U.S. are not mandatorily detained or deported. In the interim, AILA calls upon ICE to ensure that the rights of immigrant workers are protected, and that appropriate attention is paid to the safety and welfare of children and their families.

Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, professional services and expertise through its 35 chapters and over 75 national committees. AILA also advocates before Congress and the Administration, as well as provides liaison with government agencies in support of pro-immigration initiatives. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 08030369.