Kyne: Immigration detention procedures cruel, ineffective

From 2005 to 2013 the immigration detention population has risen nearly 85 percent. The detainees are rarely given a set timeframe – instead they are held until they agree to be deported or until immigration authorities examine their case. Immigrants who are detained have no right to counsel. This system is flawed in terms of both expenses and mental health; changes must be implemented to create a cost-effective and humane policy.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement released an analysis of 50 facilities that hold nearly 85 percent of all detainees that showed that out of 34,000 people, about 300 of them were held in solitary confinement on any given day in 2012. Eleven percent of the detainees held in isolation were mentally ill, 46 percent were held for 15 days or more, 21 percent for 45 days or more and 11 percent for 75 days or more. 

Paul Grussendorf, a former immigration judge, said that he witnessed the deportation of many immigrants who, if given legal representation, would have been qualified to stay in the U.S. Many gave up after months of being held in detention. Grussendorf believes that ICE could save money by using ankle bracelets and that the money saved by using the ankle bracelets could “be used to offset the price of providing counsel for most immigrants being processed by ICE.”  

According to The New York Times, Jan C. Ting, a former assistant commissioner at the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1990 to 1993 believes that ankle bracelets could slow down the process because the number of immigrants failing to show up at their hearings may increase. Yet the idea of keeping people locked up indefinitely instead of giving them a chance to go to trial and earn their right to stay seems not only illogical, but cruel as well.

The international community, too, is weighing in on the U.S.’s immigration problem. The treatment of detained immigrants has gained the attention of Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture. According to Méndez, prolonged solitary confinement, which amounts to more than 15 days, can be labeled as torture for it leads to sensory deprivation. That detention techniques used by the U.S. can cause psychological problems is horrific, even more so when there are people with long-standing mental disorders being subjected to them as well.

While ICE claims that solitary confinement is used only in extreme cases, there have been numerous statements given by those who have been detained that challenged this assertion. According to The New York Times, Delfino Quiroz, a gay immigrant, was held “for his own protection.” The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2010 for José Antonio Franco-Gonzalez, who has an IQ below 55, after he was wrongfully detained by ICE for five years. 

These immigrants are people who deserve to be treated as such. Among them are children, victims of sex trafficking, mentally ill and legal residents. To label them as simply “immigrants” or “aliens” and throw them into a cell until they can no longer take it is disgustingly cruel. We cannot ignore the fact that people who deserve the right to a fair trial are being mistreated. Citizenship status should not determine if a person is to be treated fairly and legally.