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Immigration detainees are not being punished

Dear KSAZ Fox Phoenix,

In your rush to condemn the allegedly* cushy conditions in Florence Service Processing Center, you -- and the one-sided panel of commenters you quoted -- overlooked one very important fact:

ICE detainees are not in detention to be punished for violating immigration law. They are in detention awaiting trial to determine if they actually violated any immigration laws.

Ranting about how nice we're supposedly treating illegal aliens is irrelevant because most of the people here have not been convicted of being illegal aliens. Nor have they been assigned jail time as a punishment. They are people ICE suspects of having committed an immigration violation, who are being held out of fear they would abscond before trial. It's a pretty basic principle of justice that you don't punish someone until after you have given them a trial.

And you can't simply assume that people who have been charged by ICE with violations are inevitably going to be found guilty anyway, and so we might as well get a head start on punishing them. It is routine for ICE to round up native-born US citizens and hold them for years before grudgingly accepting judges' findings that the person was not actually in violation of immigration law. Would you like to claim that we should be punishing people for being victims of false accusations?

Failing to mention that these people are being held while they await trial, and instead implying that they are there to be punished for immigration violations, is journalistically irresponsible.

I will agree, though, that we could save money on immigration detention. However, we would not do it via making conditions worse for people who are innocent until proven guilty. We would do it through reducing the use of detention. Many of the people currently in detention do not need to be there. They could be released on their own recognizance, or given cheap tracking ankle bracelets. This would be just as effective as detaining them, but they would pay for their own food and lodging, rather than making taxpayers foot the bill while they wait in jail.

*The implication that conditions in SPC are great is simply false. SPC is, however, the nicest detention facility in Florence -- conditions for the vast majority of detainees in private Corrections Corporation of America facilities and Pinal County Jail are much worse.


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