Tuesday, September 22, 2009

That Promise of Detention Reform

New York Times Editorial
Sept. 21, 2009

Last month the Obama administration announced that it was going to overhaul
immigration detention, to impose accountability and safety on a system
notoriously deficient in both. This month, the official chosen to lead the
effort, Dora Schriro, announced that she was leaving Washington to become the
commissioner of correction for New York City. But the job of fixing the
detention system, and all of its horrors, must move ahead.
On Friday, her last day on the job, Ms. Schriro delivered a report on the
detention system to Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. We hope
that it fully reflects the desperate reality: the brutal mistreatment;
isolation, filth and deprivation; the shabby or nonexistent health care and the
ill and injured detainees who languished and sometimes died, their suffering
Ms. Schriro’s successor will have a big job in fulfilling the
administration’s promise of reform. The abuse and neglect must end. The system
must also become much more discriminating about whom it holds — dangerous
criminals, not the harmless and sick.
It will also have to rein in the
private for-profit prisons that deliver brutal service on the cheap. And it will
have to increase accountability and transparency. Ms. Napolitano can start by
releasing Ms. Schriro’s report. Americans need to find out what happened in
Basile, La., where detainees staged a hunger strike to protest detestable
conditions, or downtown Los Angeles, where inmates filed a lawsuit to protest
the squalor.
While Ms. Napolitano and her team promise to make detention a
“truly civil” system, they show no interest in reforming the corrupt mechanisms
that feed it. Instead, they are expanding the programs that have allowed corrupt
local officials to round up thousands in unjust raids. The same people whom
President Obama has promised a decent shot at citizenship remain easy prey to
racial profiling, and are terrified of ending up in this truly uncivilized
system. Mr. Obama and Ms. Napolitano must resolve that fundamental


With Scuffles, Police Remove Migrants From French Camp

Published: September 22, 2009
CALAIS, France — French authorities dismantled and bulldozed a camp for
undocumented migrants outside this English Channel port on Tuesday, rounding up
almost 300 Afghans, Pakistanis and others who had gathered there for years in
the hope of making clandestine journeys across the 22 miles of water to
Starting at daybreak, hundreds of paramilitary officers scuffled with
migrants and campaigners from a group called No Borders as the authorities
closed down the camp, known as “the jungle” by migrants and Calais residents
alike for its location among the thorn bushes and sand dunes of Calais.
Hours later, yellow earth movers began flattening the makeshift shelters
used by hundreds of migrants seeking to sneak — or be smuggled by organized
gangs of traffickers — across the channel to Britain, which is itself seeking to
tighten border controls against unwanted migrants. Workers with chain saws moved
in to cut down the brush that had hidden the area from view.
The camp, with
huts and a mosque made of packing crates, blankets and tarpaulins, grew after
the closing of a Red Cross shelter for migrants in nearby Sangatte in late 2002.
The operation on Tuesday had been loudly signaled by the authorities, and many
migrants — possibly 1,000, according to news reports — had slipped away before
the raid.
With migrants outnumbered by 500 riot police officers, the
half-hour operation began at 7:40 a.m.. Under the gaze of about 200 waiting
journalists, police dragged or escorted away the mainly Afghan migrants who had
gathered in silence under a banner written in Pashto and English declaring: “The
jungle is our house, please don’t destroy it — if you do so then where is the
place to go?”
Some were led away in tears.
The immigration
minister, Eric Besson, defended the operation on RTL radio Tuesday. “This is not
a humanitarian camp,” he said. “It’s a base for human traffickers.”
At a news
conference in Calais, Mr. Besson said 276 people, including 135 teenagers, were
arrested and their fate would be determined on a “case by case” basis.
French authorities say some migrants will return to their countries of
origin, some will apply for asylum in France
and some will be expelled to Greece, the country where most of them entered the European
According to Pierre de Bousquet, the Pas de Calais prefect who
directed Tuesday’s action, shelter has been made available for those migrants
wishing to seek asylum, while minors will be taken to hostels for people under
18. Others will be held pending deportation.
Human rights bodies have urged
Paris not to return migrants to Greece, but Mr. Besson declined to comment
Tuesday on whether he had raised the issue with his Greek counterpart on a visit
to the country on Friday.
Khaled Hadarhy, a 21-year-old Afghan, was rounded
up along with two friends who were 16 and 17. “We are all young, but we look old
because the jungle has made us old,” said Mr. Hadarhy, a former policeman from
Helmand Province who has been in Calais for four months.
“The police will
come and we will do what they tell us,” said Exel Palav, 20, from
Pierre Henry, president of a campaign group called France Terre
d’Asile, said Tuesday’s operation was an effort to make the migrants disappear
“like a coin in a three-cup magic trick,” displacing them to neighboring Belgium
or the Netherlands.
“The operation in Calais won’t stop departures from
Kabul,” he said. “The smugglers will find other routes that are more complex and
more dangerous.”
The move to eliminate the tents and ramshackle housing
around the port is designed to halt migrants without papers from getting into
Britain, and to crack down on the smuggling networks that assist
“Smugglers will not lay down the law,” the immigration minister, Mr.
Besson, said last Wednesday. He first announced the plan to dismantle the camp
in April, responding to complaints from local businesses.
The closure took
place as European countries increasingly use force to crack down on unwanted
migrants. On July 12, Greece eliminated a makeshift camp in the port city of
Patras; in May, Italy struck a controversial accord with Libya allowing it to
turn back migrants’ boats in the Mediterranean. The European Union estimates
that 500,000 people cross its borders without papers each year.

Read full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/world/europe/23france.html

Scathing Report on Border Security Is Issued

Published: September 17, 2009

LOS ANGELES — Government auditors reported Thursday that the effort to secure the Mexican border with technology and fences has fallen years behind schedule, will cost billions of dollars extra in maintenance costs and has no clear means of gauging whether illegal crossings have been curtailed.

Mark Borkowski, who directs the Secure Border Initiative for the Department of Homeland Security, stood by the program as “transformational,” but did not challenge the findings. “We are as frustrated as anybody is” with the setbacks, Mr. Borkowski said in an interview.

The report, by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s watchdog, said the department had fallen about seven years behind its goal of putting in place the technology the Bush administration had heavily promoted when it announced the Secure Border Initiative in 2005.

In 2006, the report said, the department estimated it would have a system of cameras, radars and sensors in place to aid a force of border guards by the end of 2009, but the completion date is now projected as 2016.

“Flaws found in testing and concerns about the impact of placing towers and access roads in environmentally sensitive locations caused delays,” said Richard M. Stana, an author of the report. The cameras and radars, a “virtual fence” in a system designed by the contractor, Boeing, have fallen prey to weather and mechanical problems.

The effort to build 661 miles of fences blocking vehicles or pedestrians is nearly complete, but with 28 miles left to go, it has been delayed by lawsuits from landowners in Texas.

The government has spent $2.4 billion on such “physical infrastructure,” but the report said it could cost $6.5 billion over 20 years to maintain it.

For all the money spent, the department has not set up a way to evaluate the fences’ impact, relying mainly on the judgment of senior Border Patrol agents.

Mr. Borkowski said the government auditors were overly “pessimistic,” and, while he offered no guarantees, he predicted the system would prove successful. He said the department was studying ways to judge its success beyond managers’ opinions.

The apprehension of illegal immigrants at the border has fallen to lows not seen in decades, but scholars and Mexican officials say the recession and the lack of jobs in the United States have contributed to the drop.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in response to the report that department officials needed to get the Secure Border Initiative “right or find an alternative technology solution.”

Read article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/us/18fence.html

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Settlement Aids Detainees in Los Angeles

Published: September 16, 2009
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal immigration
officials have settled a lawsuit that claimed people suspected of being illegal
immigrants were kept in “barbaric” conditions in a downtown Los Angeles
detention center, civil rights groups announced Wednesday.
The federal court
agreement restricts detention at the facility to 12 hours at a stretch except
under unusual circumstances like epidemics or natural disasters. It requires
that detainees be provided with soap, access to lawyers and writing materials
for those who need to prepare legal documents.
The agreement, which applies
only to the downtown facility and runs until June of next year, “restores
detainees’ dignity and their right to due process,” said Ahilan T. Arulanantham,
director of immigrants’ rights and national security for the American Civil
Liberties Union of Southern California. “It is one step, but an important one,
in correcting our severely broken immigration detention system
The A.C.L.U., the National Immigration Law Center and a private
law firm claimed that the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency
maintained overcrowded and squalid conditions in B-18, a temporary holding
center in the basement of a downtown federal building.
But a statement from
the groups said many of the problems were corrected after the lawsuit was filed
in April.
Detainees have included illegal immigrants, others who have
overstayed visas, felons fighting deportation after completing prison terms and
some who have pending claims for political asylum.
The lawsuit asserted that
B-18 has held 200 or more people at a time. Immigrants are not supposed to be
held at the detainee center for more than 12 consecutive hours because it has no
beds. The lawsuit contended that some detainees were held for 20 hours or more,
slept on the floor and drank from a sink because there was no other water

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/17/us/17immig.html


National Immigration Law Center FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 16, 2009CONTACT: Adela de la Torre 213.674.2832

WASHINGTON – In yet another attempt to derail progress on health care reform, opponents have tried again to generate fears and false claims about immigrants. Unfortunately, rather than strengthening its resolve to improve the health care system, the Senate Finance Committee, apparently following the administration’s lead, has responded by taking the bait. Today the committee introduced a health care reform proposal that denies millions of U.S. workers and their families the opportunity to purchase affordable health care and that will threaten the health and well-being of the nation’s communities. Below is a statement from National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena HincapiĆ© on efforts to deny immigrants access to affordable health care.
“In an effort to appease the anti-immigrant minority who fundamentally oppose health care reform, the health care reform proposal released today by the chair of the Senate Finance Committee falls far short of the original goal of making health care available or affordable for everyone. Lawmakers have once again allowed disruptive, counterproductive voices to prevent us from moving forward as a country with real solutions for the broken health care and immigration systems. Instead, they offer half-hearted solutions that leave too many families and workers behind while Americans continue to lose access to affordable health care. Instead of cowering before those who believe the status quo works for the average American, Congress needs to prescribe real solutions to the health care crisis and fix the system in a way that addresses the diverse needs of our nation.
“We cannot allow the shouts of a few extremists to prevent us from repairing a health care system that has been broken for decades. We urge Congress to make the most of this historic opportunity to move the country forward by ensuring that all Americans — including immigrants and their families — have access to quality affordable health care. Common-sense measures, such as ensuring that low-income legal immigrants do not have to wait five years for affordable care, will go a long way in improving our national health.”

For more information:
"Why Excluding People from the Health Care Exchange is Impractical and Harmful to All of Us" (www.nilc.org/immspbs/health/exchange-imms-2009-09-14.pdf)

More information about the health care reform bills and how they affect immigrants will be available soon at www.nilc.org.

Rep. Jared Polis: The Case for Detention Reform

Rep. Jared Polis: The Case for Detention Reform
Sept 15, 2009

For the inaugural edition of the Denver Huffington Post, I thought I'd
write about an issue that is close to my heart -- reforming our nation's
immigration detention facilities, which hold tens of thousands of immigrants who
were mostly picked up for trivial offenses like speeding or loitering and are
now in detention at taxpayer expense for months or even years.

Imagine that one day you are home with your family, and the next day your
kids return from school to find that you've been placed for an indefinite period
in a detention facility with limited visitation rights.

The need for comprehensive immigration reform is felt by Americans in
Colorado and across the nation, but few are aware of the high cost, deplorable
conditions, and general failure that is our detention system. In this blog I
hope to shine some light on what is becoming an increasingly costly
embarrassment to our nation and an affront to our American values.
Just last
week, I met with the National Day Laborers' Organizing Network (NDLON), their
Colorado affiliate organization, Centro Humanitario para los Trabajadores, and
the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, who have been working on
detention reform. During our meeting, we talked about abysmal conditions at the
Basile detention facility in Louisiana, where dozens of immigrants were denied
basic access to basic sanitation and medical assistance. Enduring humiliation
and further abuse, hundreds of detainees participated in a series of hunger
strikes demanding to be treated with dignity and afforded their basic human
Sadly, the stories of abuse, malnutrition and lack of basic health
care are altogether too common in detention facilities. The experience of New
Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice resonated deeply with similar groups
in Colorado, seeking to support those who are struggling to gain access to basic
medical assistance or regular meals.
This summer, I toured a GEO detention
facility in Aurora, where I met some of the thirty thousand immigrants
throughout the country being held in detention facilities due to an immigration
violation. They are children, pregnant women, asylum-seekers, victims of human
trafficking, survivors of torture and other vulnerable individuals. Some are
undocumented, but many were not and are simply "waiting" for a decision of an
immigration court.
Currently there are 400 facilities being used to house
immigrants in detention at an annual cost of more than $1.7 billion. Depending
on the facility, the average cost of detaining an immigrant is $99 per day. Here
in Colorado, it costs over $133 dollars a day to detain an immigrant at the GEO
Detention Facility in Aurora. Given the absurd amount of money the government is
spending on immigrant detention facilities, it is all the more ludicrous
considering that most of the immigrants being held in detention pose no threat
to our community. These individuals are not criminals and have no place in
detention centers.
Even more disturbing is the alarming number of deaths in
detention. Since 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement claims there have
been at least 104 deaths in immigration detention. Many of these deaths have
been caused by a lack of timely and thorough medical care and nearly one fifth
of them have been suicides. Although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
owns and operates select detention centers, the government also "buys" bed space
from private facilities such as the GEO in Aurora and over 312 county and city
prisons nationwide. These for-profit contractors are not directly supervised by
DHS staff, creating a lack of communication and a gross lack of accountability.
Consequently, individuals have routinely experienced egregious conditions of
confinement, physical and sexual abuse, overcrowding and discrimination. For a
hundred dollars per day, the amount of money taxpayers are spending on
detention, we could afford to house immigrants at hotels across the country, but
instead we place them under dangerous conditions where they are denied basic
human rights.
Thankfully, effective alternatives to detention are readily
available. Systems that include reporting and electronic monitoring have been
found to yield an appearance rate before immigration courts of well over 90
percent. They are effective and significantly cheaper, with some programs
costing as little as $12 per day compared to the $99 per day in the average
detention center. Prisons should be for criminals, not honest, productive people
caught up in the byzantine morass of our broken immigration system.
By the
end of 2009 the U.S. government will have more than 440,000 people in
immigration custody -- more than triple the number of people in detention just
ten years ago. While it is not good policy to put immigrants with no criminal
record and who pose no threat to our community behind bars, it is certainly not
in our best interest to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on detaining a
civilian population when alternatives have been proven to work.
This August,
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced the beginning of major
detention reforms at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), shutting down
the deadly and infamous T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas and increasing
direct government oversight of privately-run detention centers and
accountability within ICE for substandard detention facilities.
While I am
thrilled that the Obama Administration is beginning to address these issues, it
is merely the first step toward reforming our failed immigration detention
system. As Congress begins consideration of comprehensive immigration reform
next year, it is crucial to continue to shine a light on the need to re-haul our
current immigration detention system, which has failed to make Americans safer
while undermining our values and wasting taxpayer dollars. Regardless of what
internal policies are implemented at the DHS, Congress must define humane
enforcement and ensure that detention standards are enforced if ICE is not able
to do so. Decisions about whether vulnerable populations should be held in
detention, the conditions immigrant detainees are subject to, and how much of a
role alternatives to detention should play a part of a truly humane civil
detention system are too important to leave up to DHS to decide
With President Obama committed to enacting comprehensive
immigration reform and the Congress set to consider and debate reform early next
year, it is crucial that we reform our immigration detention system immediately.
By strengthening accountability and oversight to of detention facilities,
investigating abuses in detention and expanding cost saving and more cost saving
and humane "alternatives to detention" for law-abiding immigrants we can reform
our detention policies to better reflect our American values and save taxpayer

Read at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jared-polis/case-for-detention-reform_b_287260.html

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

As detention center shuts down in Texas, advocates worry about future for immigrant families

Annabelle Garay
AP writer
Sept. 9, 2009

DALLAS (AP) — As immigrant children and their parents depart a disparaged former Texas
prison that housed them while they awaited decisions in their immigration cases,
advocates are questioning if the government has fully thought out what happens
to the families now.Federal officials announced last month that the T. Don Hutto
facility in Taylor would no longer hold immigrant families and they instead
would be detained at the much smaller Berks Family Residential Center in
Leesport, Pa. But with only 84 beds — and more than 100 people once housed at
Hutto — some advocates wonder if there will be enough space, or if immigrants
will be released."We still have a lot of questions and would like to hear more
details," said Denise Gilman, of the Immigration Clinic at the University
of Texas
School of Law, which along with other advocates filed a lawsuit
contending that family detention at Hutto was inhumane.Hutto is set to stop
holding immigrant families by the end of the year, government officials say, and
families have slowly been leaving. Instead of transferring the families to
Berks, the government has been trying to process the cases of families at both
facilities.The Texas facility went from holding 127 men, women and children last
month to just 22 people this week. They were either deported to their home
countries or released while they pursue asylum or another immigration status to
remain in the U.S.As the change takes place, advocates are watching to see if
the Pennsylvania
facility has better conditions, if cases are handled fairly and if new problems
arise because of the shift.

Read more: http://www.courant.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-family-detention-what-next,0,4455535.story

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Baker County Press (FL): ICE inmates finally arriving

Sept 9, 2009
Joel Addington
Baker County Press

About two weeks after finalizing an agreement with Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE), the newly constructed sheriff’s complex accepted its first 38
prisoners from the federal agency last week.
Federal officers had transferred
three inmates by September 2 and another 35 arrived in a handful of nondescript
vans the afternoon of September 3, accompanied by a large bus with a US
Department of Homeland Security logo.
Baker Correctional Development
Corporation (BCDC) board members and ICE officials joined Sheriff Joey Dobson
and facility staff for a handoff.
“It’s exciting for us,” said the nonprofit
corporation’s secretary Paul Whitehead. “I’ve been looking forward to this day.
It’s a good thing for the county.”
The BCDC oversees management of the new
jail and repayment of $45 million bonded to fund its construction. The
organization was formed in 2007, but planning for the 512-bed facility began as
early as 2002.
Six years later the bonds were sold and construction began.
The project was completed and the sheriff’s department, emergency management
services, dispatchers and local inmates moved into the complex last June. Since
then it’s housed about 100 local inmates and a small group of prisoners from
other federal law enforcement agencies.
“I’ve been anxious about getting to
this day,” said Sheriff Dobson, who along with other county officials have been
eager to see cells at the complex occupied and federal dollars start to trickle
Since that roughly $84 per day per prisoner is expected to repay the
bonds, the slow churning of ICE’s Washington bureaucracy took its toll in recent
months as local officials fielded numerous inquiries about when, if ever, the
prisoners might be transferred.
Last week Sheriff Dobson asked for assistance
from Senator Bill Nelson’s office in moving the paperwork along. He said
the senator’s office called September 1 to inform him that ICE inmates
would arrive within the week.
“They got it done,” said Sheriff Dobson. “My
blood pressure is probably somewhat down now … This day is historical. It’s what
we built this facility for.”
The sheriff’s department, which has a management
contract with BCDC to run the jail, hired 16 new guards to handle additional
inmates. The staffing plan calls for two more waves of hiring that will
culminate with 60 sworn officers at the complex.
“It’s not a lot of change,
just in the numbers,” said Sheriff Dobson about the impact of housing ICE
inmates. “It changes the complexity of dealing with them on an everyday
More than 350 cells remain empty, and it’s unclear when the new jail
might reach full capacity.
“It’s going to be slowly,” said an ICE supervisor
from Jacksonville who asked not to be identified. “Once you go into this, it’s
like making jambalaya — you add the rice, let it cook, then the beans; you take
your time.”
In the view of BCDC president Todd Knabb, it’s good the facility
didn’t fill up immediately. “It gives them a chance to get all the kinks worked
out,” he said.
According to a 10-year cash flow forecast for the BCDC, the
jail’s projected income won’t reach $15.6 million annually until 2013. That
figure represents how much revenue would be generated if all 512 beds were
occupied continuously for 365 days.
The forecast also shows that by this time
next year, the BCDC is expected to have $12.4 million coming in with only $10.4
million in operational expenses and debt payments.

"Immigrant Detention: Can ICE Meet its Legal Imperatives and Case Management Responsibilities"

Migration Policy Institute issued a new report, "Immigrant Detention: Can ICE Meet its Legal Imperatives and Case Management Responsibilities", analyzes select data for all 32,000 detainees held in ICE custody on one night in January 2009 and examines the sufficiency of ICE's database and case tracking system. The question has taken on new urgency in light of the ICE announcement in August that it plans to revamp its detention system to reduce its reliance on local jails and private prisons, address longstanding concerns related to conditions of confinement and centralize management.

Some highlights of the report's analysis of the ICE data on detainees in the system on January 25, 2009:

* Of the 32,000 immigrants in ICE's custody, 18,690 had pending removal cases (in other words, they had not received final orders of removal).
* The average length of detention for the 18,690 pre-removal order detainees was 81 days. Seventy-four percent had been detained for less than 90 days, 13 percent for between 90 days and six months, 10 percent for between six months and one year, and 3 percent for more than one year.
* A high percentage of ICE detainees (58 percent) do not have criminal records, even though mandatory detention laws largely apply to criminal aliens; ICE includes persons who have committed immigration-related offenses in its criminal alien nomenclature, and ICE's expanding Secure Communities program places large numbers of arrested and imprisoned noncitizens into removal proceedings.
* ICE held detainees in 286 facilities, which were concentrated in southern and U.S.-Mexico border states; 68 percent of the total were held in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
* Nearly 70 percent of detainees were held in state and local prisons pursuant to Intergovernmental Service Agreements, 17 percent in contract detention facilities, 10 percent in service processing centers, 2 percent in federal prisons and 3 percent in Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities, medical centers, shelters, and other alternative or "soft" detention settings.

The report makes a range of recommendations, among them that ICE:

* Undertake an intensive analysis of its information systems, particularly its detention database and case tracking system, in light of its legal mandates, management imperatives and detention transformation initiative.
* Comprehensively review its contracts for detention space, with the goal of maximizing the cost savings realized by expanding alternative-to-detention programs.
* Capture information that would allow the agency to adhere to its national standards, including information on when and how the agency has complied with the standards. For standards related to detainee transfers, ICE should record information on the U.S. residence of detainees, their family members and legal counsel.
* Collect all information related to detainee medical needs, interventions, treatment and causes of death.

To read the full report, click here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Health Care Debate Revives Immigration Battle

Published: September 5, 2009
New York Times

The Obama administration took an overhaul of the country’s immigration
laws off its legislative agenda this year, but the prickly issue of public
benefits for illegal immigrants has resurfaced in the health care debate.

Republicans argue that some of the voters’ concerns are justified because,
they say, the proposals before Congress do not spell out procedures to verify
the citizenship of those who would receive health coverage. [...]

Broad explanations, not intricate detail, were what voters in Georgia were
looking for in recent meetings with Representative Phil Gingrey, a Republican
who was a practicing physician in the state for 26 years. Mr. Gingrey said there
had been an influx of illegal immigrants in his district in the last decade.
“A lot of their kids are in the school system,” Mr. Gingrey said in a
telephone interview. “They get a free public education without any question. My
constituents don’t want the same thing to happen with regard to health
Mr. Gingrey said the prohibitions against illegal immigrants in the
bills were “reassuring,” but he, too, suggested that eligibility verification
remained weak. According to local news reports, Mr. Gingrey drew cheers in one
meeting when he said he would work to make sure the health plan did not become a
magnet drawing new illegal immigrants to the United States. [...]

Democrats reacted sharply to the prospect of a fight over verification. Senator Max
of Montana, chairman of the Finance Committee, said citizenship
checks already included in federal programs like Medicaid
would be preserved in new legislation. He said the health care debate should not
be a forum for a battle over immigration.
As a result of a 2005 law,
Medicaid, the federal low-income health program, now requires all applicants to
verify their citizenship. Current health care proposals would expand Medicaid to
more families, keeping the proof-of-citizenship requirements.
Democrats are
reluctant to expand those requirements to everyone seeking insurance under a
health care overhaul, because several studies on the
impact on Medicaid
have found that citizenship verification increased
administrative costs for states and made it difficult for some American citizens
to join the program.
Many of those left out were elderly patients, who did not have originals of
identity documents that the 2005 law demands.
“Many states view the proof of
citizenship as very onerous on American families,” said Diane Rowland, executive
director of the Commission on Medicaid and the
at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, speaking of the Medicaid
In six states that were
in 2007 by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,
verification increased federal costs by $8.3 million, but only eight illegal
immigrants were detected on the Medicaid rolls of the states.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/health/policy/06immighealth.html

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Low-Wage Workers Are Often Cheated, Study Says

By Steven Greenhouse
Sept 1, 2009

Low-wage workers are routinely denied proper overtime pay and are often
paid less than the minimum wage, according to a new study based on a survey
of workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The study, the most comprehensive examination of wage-law violations in a
decade, also found that 68 percent of the workers interviewed had experienced at
least one pay-related violation in the previous work week. [...]

In surveying 4,387 workers in various low-wage industries, including
apparel manufacturing, child care and discount retailing, the researchers found
that the typical worker had lost $51 the previous week through wage violations,
out of average weekly earnings of $339. That translates into a 15 percent loss
in pay.
The researchers said one of the most surprising findings was how
successful low-wage employers were in pressuring workers not to file for
workers’ compensation. Only 8 percent of those who suffered serious injuries on
the job filed for compensation to pay for medical care and missed days at work
stemming from those injuries. [...]

The study found that women were far more likely to suffer minimum wage
violations than men, with the highest prevalence among women who were illegal
immigrants. Among American-born workers, African-Americans had a violation rate
nearly triple that for whites.
“These practices are not just morally
reprehensible, but they’re bad for the economy,” said Annette
, an author of the study and policy co-director of the National
Employment Law Project
. “When unscrupulous employers break the law, they’re
robbing families of money to put food on the table, they’re robbing communities
of spending power and they’re robbing governments of vital tax revenues.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/us/02wage.html

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Changes in illegal immigrant detention policy may impact Utah company, county jails

Law enforcement » The new detention centers will be more like secure dorms than jails.

By Matt Canham
The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 08/29/2009 08:43:03 AM MDThttp://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_13225808

Washington » The Obama administration's plan to streamline and civilize federal detention for immigration violators could have major impacts on some Utah jails and one company based in the state.
As it stands now, the government scatters tens of thousands of soon-to-be-deported detainees among 350 jails, prisons and contract facilities with little federal oversight.
But in the next three to five years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, plans to drop that number and move undocumented immigrants into their own facilities, which will resemble locked-up dorms more than prison cells. The agency will also examine alternatives, such as community supervision.
"This change marks an important step in our ongoing efforts to enforce immigration laws smartly and effectively," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who announced the policy change earlier this month.
The move may mean Weber, Washington and Utah county jails would house fewer immigrants awaiting deportation and receive less federal funding. It could also impact the business of Management & Training Corp., a Centerville-based company that runs two out-of-state ICE lockups.
But federal officials say they are months away from determining the details. What is known is that ICE wants fewer locations, but more regulations and oversight. And it plans to make the changes within its existing $3 billion detention budget.
The announcement also makes it clear that the Obama team is critical of the way detainees were treated under President George W. Bush.
In the years following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the federal government took a much tougher approach to immigration violators, resulting in a boom in the number of detainees. The government had to quickly negotiate deals with individual county jails and rush construction on ICE facilities, relying almost exclusively on private contractors.
Since then, investigators have uncovered shoddy and sometimes fatal medical treatment and repeated violations of federal standards for food, clothing and legal counsel at the contract facilities
At the same time, immigration law groups and civil libertarians have argued against using county jails and state prisons, saying that people held only on administrative grounds shouldn't be treated the same as hardened criminals.
In response to these criticisms, ICE Director John Morton announced the creation of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which is in charge of designing the new civil detention system.
"This growth has presented significant challenges to a system that was not fundamentally designed to address ICE's specific detention needs," Morton said.
Reed Richards with the Utah Sheriffs' Association is surprised the federal government would move to a centralized system.
"It is very expensive to build facilities," he said.
ICE runs no detention centers in Utah. Instead it contracts with Weber, Washington and Utah counties to hold detainees, some of whom were already incarcerated for a state crime, while others are held solely on their immigration violations.
Undocumented immigrants convicted on a state charge must serve that sentence before being placed on what is called a civil detainer or ICE hold. As immigration enforcement ramped up nationwide, so did the number of detainees in county jails, including Weber. If ICE drops its county contracts, some jails would be in a bind.
"Yeah, it is going to cost them some money," Richards said.
The Weber County jail gets $55 per day for every immigrant held on an ICE detainer. And while the stay is normally short, the jail has recently averaged about 120 immigrants locked up each day.
If that trend held, it would add up to about $2.4 million per year or a tenth of the jail's budget. If ICE decides to move these detainees to their own facilities, Weber County may be forced to cut some jobs.
"It would actually have a significant impact," said Weber County Capt. Kevin Burton. "You start talking about people's employment and everything else."
That's exactly why the Washington County jail accepts only about 25 immigration violators at a any given time when they are contracted to take up to 100.
"We don't get too dependent on contract inmates because they can go away," said Washington County Chief Deputy Jake Schultz.
His facility generally is an overflow holding area when ICE has too many people locked up in Las Vegas.
Both Weber and Washington counties participate in ICE's 287(g) program that allows county corrections officers to investigate the immigration status of their inmates. They can slap ICE holds on those deemed to be undocumented.
Utah County started taking ICE detainees in the past three years and now averages about 90 per day, according to Sheriff Jim Tracy.
He says he doesn't look at it as a long-term money maker, but more a way to help an immigration system struggling to deal with the effects of stricter enforcement. Tracy said if ICE decides to end its contract with the county, which receives $61 per day per detainee, then so be it. As the county's population grows in the next few years and more criminals are locked up, his plan is to gradually reduce the immigration violators.
"We are not going to displace county prisoners for ICE people," he said.
When ICE does announce the changes, it won't completely move away from contracting with states and counties or away from its private prison contractors, such as Utah's Management & Training Corp., referred to as MTC.
"We are not talking about moving to a wholly-owned and operated government structure at this point," Morton, who leads ICE, told reporters.
In responding to the ICE directives, MTC, the nation's third largest private prison contractor, struck an upbeat tone.
"MTC is encouraged by the direction ICE appears to be taking," said Scott Marquardt, the company's president and CEO. "ICE is concerned about the quality of health care detainees receive, that detainees are treated humanely and that they have substantial opportunities for recreation and programs."
The government fast tracked the design and creation of its Willacy immigration facility in Texas in 2006, opening its doors less than a month and a half after MTC won the contract. It now has 3,000 beds, making it ICE's largest detention facility.
MTC also runs ICE's Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico that can house up to 1,086 immigration detainees.
In recent years, MTC's Willacy and Otero facilities have received deficient ratings in inspections for such things as access to a telephone, food service and environmental health. They have not had the more serious medical violations found in other contract facilities.
"MTC is prepared to make any management changes ICE officials determine to be prudent and appropriate," said Odie Washington, the company's senior vice president.