Immigration Detention Across America
The United States (U.S.), quite literally, found its true self as a melting pot full of immigrants from all over the globe. Throughout its history, people have found safe harbor and economic success in America. It is this “American Dream” that keeps people around the world dreaming of a better life, a better world. Unfortunately, recent immigration policy in the U.S. has not favored the interests of immigrants. The Trump administration has clearly attacked immigration programs like DACA in an attempt to end them.
Recent news stories, including the deaths of two children, have highlighted the dangers faced by detainees. Detainment of immigrants often leads to disastrous personal effects, including denial of legal rights, and even sickness or abuses. A recent report by the American Immigration Council (AIC) highlights the current state of immigration detention across the country. The report, unfortunately, paints a bleak picture utilizing data from fiscal year (FY) 2015, the most recent year data are available.
This article will review what we believe to be the most critical findings of the AIC’s report. Additionally, we will review current issues with detainment in the news media.
Most importantly, if you or a loved one faces immigration detainment for any reason, you should contact legal counsel immediately. An expert immigration attorney can truly be the difference between a life in the U.S. or deportation. You can contact Davis & Associates any time to set up a free initial consultation.
This section will focus on some “quick facts” about U.S. immigration detention. It’s important to understand the current data, as it provides clarity, especially for citizens and immigrants who may be unaware of where to find such information.
A Typical Detainee is Young, Male, and from Central America or Mexico
According to the AIC report, roughly 79% of those detained by U.S. authorities are male. On average, detainees are 28 years old, though a significant portion of the population is under 18 (17%). This means the federal government detained about 59,000 children and juveniles in FY 2015.
Finally, roughly 89% of detainees arrived in the U.S. from either Mexico (43%) or Central America (46%), including Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. This means that only 11% of detainees are not from Mexico or Central America – a shocking but perhaps unsurprising finding. Figure 1 below illustrates these data.
Figure 1. Percentage of Detainee Population by Location of Home Country
Texas and California House the Largest Number of Detainees
ICE has 630 detainment centers across the U.S. used solely for the purpose of imprisoning immigrants facing court proceedings. The AIC found that in fiscal year (FY) 2015, every state had at least one ICE detention facility.
But, certain states house more facilities and thus more prisoners than others. The states with both the most facilities and the largest detainee populations were Texas and California. Texas alone houses almost 200,000 people, roughly 47% of the total population of detainees!
Privately Operated Facilities Present Major Challenges
The U.S. utilizes privately operated locations to house detainees across the country. Unfortunately, these facilities are associated with several negative effects. For example, people detained in such facilities faced significantly longer detention duration, based on AIC analyses. Additionally, such facilities also had higher detainee grievances, including those regarding lack of access to legal counsel or case information.
The AIC points out that it is also concerning that these facilities often lack appropriate transparency and accountability. This can, and perhaps does, lead to abuses of rights of detainees, obstructing justice and affecting health and livelihood. When such important rights are at stake, it’s concerning that transparency may not be enforced or even prioritized.
Access to Legal Counsel
Detainee grievances most often involved legal complaints – lack of access to adequate legal counsel and/or immigration case information. In fact, 67% of grievances, about 31,000 complaints, were filed regarding these issues. Such issues again were more common in privately operated locations, as well as locations that were remote geographically.
Unfortunately, those imprisoned in remote locations experienced lowered access to legal representation. According to the AIC, around 58% of those detained stayed at least one time in a facility that was prohibitively far (at least 30 miles driving distance) from accessible legal help. The report defines accessible legal help as the “nearest nonprofit immigration attorney who practiced removal defense.”
Such lack of access, obviously, can affect a person’s life in profound ways, even influencing the outcome of their asylum case or removal proceedings. In terms of asylum decisions, this could truly be “life and death.”
Detainment in the News
Throughout 2018, detainment was often in the news media, making headlines across America. This is in part due to the disastrous family separation policy enacted by the Trump administration in May 2018. Additionally, Trump and his officials continue to fight what they term “catch and release,” instead arguing for detainment, even in cases of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers as a group are not considered “flight risks” – according to a report by TRAC, only 1.4% of cases in FY 2018 were denied due to missed court dates.
Recently, two children died while in U.S. custody. Most recently, a young boy died on Christmas Eve. Before his death, The New York Times reported he “was moved among at least four crowded facilities at the border over the six days from his apprehension until his death.” Any denial of rights and abuse forced on those detained, including children, is a stain on America’s reputation as a bastion of freedom and protection.
Contact an Expert Immigration Attorney
Across America, many people fear detainment by immigration authorities like ICE. As this article highlights, detainment can have disastrous effects, both for a person’s immigration case and on their health, psyche, and future. If you have a loved one who is currently in immigration detention, you need an immigration lawyer prepared to fight for your rights. Ensure that you only work with attorneys who are certified by your state’s bar association.
Davis & Associates serves clients in Houston and across Texas. Our expert immigration attorneys can help guide you through difficult legal proceedings and protect your rights. Call today to set up your free initial consultation – leave with a plan and confidence that you’re headed in the right direction.
About the Report
The American Immigration Council (AIC) published the report “The Landscape of Immigration Detention in the United States” in December 2018. The report deeply analyses data regarding detainees and U.S. immigration detention from fiscal year (FY) 2015. FY 2015 is the most recent year for which these data are available. This report reveals, as discussed throughout this article, disturbing facts and trends about the challenges faced by those detained in U.S. immigration facilities. You can read the entirety of the AIC’s excellent report here.
Unless otherwise noted, all data and information within this article derive from the AIC’s report. Other sources utilized include TRAC and The New York Times. Within the article, we have linked to source materials for your convenience.