Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Report Critical of Scope of Immigration Detention

Published: October 6, 2009
New York Times

A report on immigration detention released Tuesday by the Obama administration paints a picture of a costly, inappropriately penal system that is growing without basic tools for management and monitoring, while the government office nominally in charge struggles with high turnover and a lack of expertise.
Though the administration has indicated that it wants to concentrate immigration enforcement on serious criminal offenders, the report shows that one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the population in detention is noncriminals picked up in the enforcement programs the government has embraced.
Those figures are among the surprises in the 35-page report, produced for Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, by Dora B. Schriro, an adviser who has since quit to become the correction commissioner in New York City.
The report shows that 60 percent of the 380,000 people detained during the 2009 fiscal year had been turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement by state and local police, mostly through the Criminal Alien Program, which identifies possible immigration violators in local jails. Others were sent by local law enforcement officers deputized to enforce federal immigration law through a program known as 287(g).
Both programs have the stated goal of improving safety through federal-local partnerships that single out serious criminal offenders for deportation. But well over half the immigrants taken into custody under the programs had no criminal convictions, the figures show.
According to the report, 57 percent of the 178,605 people sent through the Criminal Alien Program in the 2009 fiscal year had no criminal convictions, an increase since 2008, when noncriminals were 53 percent of the 149,067 detainees sent through the program.
An even higher proportion of noncriminals were sent through the 287(g) program — 65 percent of 44,692 in 2009, down from 72 percent of 37,776 in 2008.
Those numbers are likely to fuel conflicts over both programs, which have been criticized by advocates for immigrants, who say they give license to racial profiling. The Schriro report warns that computerized information exchanges between federal immigration authorities and local police, which are being expanded, are likely to swell the number of noncriminals transferred into immigration custody. “This new technology has the potential to identify large volumes of aliens with low-level convictions or no convictions,” the report said.
In an interview before she left the administration, Dr. Schriro spoke of the “cognitive dissonance” between this system and the administration’s support for a path to citizenship for many of the country’s estimated 12 million unauthorized residents.
The tension has been heightened as Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, begins planning for that path, in case a bill authorizing one is passed.

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