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21.3.09

Immigration links and short comments

Lots happening in the world of immigration recently:

* The AP has a nice long piece exposing the absurdity of immigration detention. A good read if you're unsure about the wisdom of putting tens of thousands of people -- most of whom have no criminal background, and many of whom have a legitimate right to stay in the U.S. even under our current deeply flawed laws -- in prisons, under conditions the same as or worse than those for convicted murderers, thieves, etc.

The article points out that the detention system is essentially a cruel subsidy to prison corporations like CCA and GEO Group, as well as local law enforcement agencies:

The use of detention to ensure immigrants show up for immigration court comes at a high cost compared to alternatives like electronic ankle monitoring, which can track people for considerably less money per day.

Based on the amount budgeted for this fiscal year, U.S. taxpayers will pay about $141 a night - the equivalent of a decent hotel room - for each immigrant detained, even though paroling them on ankle monitors - at a budgeted average daily cost of $13 - has an almost perfect compliance rate, according to ICE's own stats.


So why is ICE wasting its money? A lot of it, I imagine, is that people from ICE simply don't appreciate what life in detention is like -- the immigrants are just numbers on case files to them. And insofar as they conceive of their job as "deport as many people as possible," the suffering of life in detention helps them out -- I've heard countless stories of people who have legitimate cases who give up and accept deportation to avoid spending additional months or years in detention while they fight (or try to fight, anyway -- access to legal resources and even their own documents is hardly guaranteed in jail).

I think the cruelty and inefficiency of ICE might be a good test for distinguishing reasonable conservatives from nativist bigots. I would hope the former could agree that a fast, fair, and efficient immigration court system would be an improvement -- even if they still want to close the borders and force everyone here to speak English.

* Relatedly, a California police chief says housing detainees is "a business" keeping his department solvent through ICE dollars. Perhaps the federal government could just provide stimulus-type aid directly to local police, without laundering it through the suffering of immigrants.

* Health care (if you can call it that) in immigration detention is based on the principle of "keep them alive long enough for us to get around to deporting them." But don't take my (admittedly cynical) word for it -- here's the government's own policy (italics added):

The DIHS Medical Dental Detainee Covered Services Package, which governs access to off-site specialists, says that requests for non-emergency care will be considered if going without treatment in custody would "cause deterioration of the detainee's health or uncontrolled suffering affecting his/her deportation status."


* Nancy Pelosi comes out against the worst ICE raids. I'm not sure whether the rhetoric of "un-American" she uses is, in the context of taking a progressive position on immigration, a problematic residual nationalism (we should do what's right, not what's "American" -- whatever that even means), or subversively telling the nativists to shove it. In either case, hopefully she understands that it's not just that ICE's narrowminded tactics in enforcing the existing law are evil, but that the law itself needs to change (and that she's in the best position of anyone to make sure that change happens).

2 Comments:

Blogger knowledgequeen said...

I work in immigration law, and the AP's piece I found (sadly) bang on. I can't tell you how many ICE attorneys/functionaries/etc I've wanted to either physically or verbally b--ch slap for the callousness they show. Immigrants, legal or illegal, really are just numbers to them.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:34 AM  

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