I’ve visited many immigration detention facilities throughout the U.S. in the representation of my clients before the immigration courts. Usually, the individuals are detained simply because ICE refuses to release them on parole while there hearings are pending. In virtually all the cases I’ve handled, after my client has his hearing, they are granted relief from removal and are released to go home. Thus, all the money spent on their detention was a loss.

All of my clients have suffered deeply during their detention by ICE. I had an HIV positive client who became ill right after he was taken into custody. He was taken to the infirmary where he languished until his legs became so swollen he had to be rushed to the hospital, his life at risk; another of my clients slipped in a jail on a spot of water and shattered his shoulder. He was taken to hospital and underwent extensive surgery. ICE then returned him to the jail and failed to provide him the follow up care or rehabilitation he needed. He has permanent lost range of use of his arm. After spending a year in jail, he was granted relief and released.

The complaints I’ve heard from my clients about their ICE detention are many: poor medical care, no access to enrichment activities or classes, limited exercise, high cost of telephone calls, and the overall trauma of being jailed and treated like a prisoner. It is estimated that ICE pays an average of $165 per day to house a detainee at a private facility. Thus, in 180 days, the cost of detention will exceed $29,700. In cases where the alien ultimately is granted relief from removal, the ICE essentially squandered that money. The issue of the use of private entities for detention is one of money and making profit from jailing people. Clearly, the only way to make a profit where an entity is paid a flat fee per inmate is to cut costs and services. This is the obvious reason detainees held in private facilities end up shortchanged and taken advantage off. Ending the use of private detention facilities may be a good idea, but overall reducing detention of aliens is the real solution. We’ll see if any progress is made in this area after the election. For more information on for profit detention read this great article: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/report/2015/12/18/127769/how-for-profit-companies-are-driving-immigration-detention-policies/

WASHINGTON (MONDAY, Sept. 26, 2016) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), with other leading senators, pressed the Obama administration Monday on the use of private prisons and contract facilities by the Department of Homeland Security. The letter comes amid an internal review at DHS regarding its use of private prisons, and the senators urged DHS to ensure the review was meaningful and genuine. In their letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, the senators state that “we strongly oppose the use of for-profit prison companies in immigration detention” and raise alarm about the lack of transparency in detention contracts, which has too often led to poor conditions and exorbitant costs to the taxpayers. “For far too long, the contracting process and the management of contract facilities housing immigrant detainees have been opaque. The lack of transparency has led to a lack of accountability. Unlike federally-run institutions, these facilities are not obligated to provide to DHS or Congress information about their cost, operational efficiency, or ability to provide adequate detention conditions. And the results are unacceptable,” the senators wrote. The senators also expressed concern about the pivotal role the private prison industry has played recently in institutionalizing mass family detention and increasing detention of asylum seekers. In addition to Leahy, the letter is signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii.). The letter comes less than a week after the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Sarah Saldaña, told the House Judiciary Committee that ICE’s prisons are “almost completely contractor run” and closing them would “turn our system upside down.” A subcommittee of DHS’s Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) is expected to provide Secretary Johnson and Director Saldaña a report of its review by November 30, 2016, including a recommendation of whether the agency should end its use of private immigration detention.

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