LatinaLista — The intention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to criminalize all undocumented immigrants caught living in the United States illegally has reached a saturation point with courts in the southwest region of the country.
According to a Dallas Morning News article:
New immigration cases, many of them stemming from misdemeanor arrests, represented 58 percent of all new federal prosecutions in April, dwarfing the number of drug and white-collar crime cases, according to the data.
Even with these misdemeanor arrests, undocumented immigrants must spend time in jail or detention awaiting deportation. If the courts are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, we can only imagine how the conditions at the detention facilities must be.
Well, thanks to a new report released this week, we know exactly how conditions are in the Pacific Northwest, one of the busiest regions of the country for immigrant deportations.
The report paints a less than rosy picture of detention conditions and it has Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the defensive.
The report, Voices from Detention: A Report on Human Rights Violations at the Northwest Detention Center, outlines abuses happening at the ICE-sponsored facility.
Unfortunately, the abuse allegations are no different than what has been reported at other facilities in recent times. Some of the findings of the report's researchers include:
1. Legal Due Process:
a. Insufficient number of attorney-client meeting rooms for 1,000 detainees
(only four), leading to lengthy delays and waits to access legal counsel
b. Breaches of attorney-client privacy and confidentiality by detention center guards during interviews and through monitoring of mail and telephones.
c. Lack of notification of attorneys and family members of detainees when transferred to other facilities
2. Detainees Pressured to Sign Papers: About a quarter of all detainees interviewed said they were pressured to sign papers whether they understood them or not. They said if they refused to sign, guards exerted psychological pressure with verbal threats and physical intimidation. An interviewed attorney
stated that ICE improperly advises arriving detainees to take voluntary departure (deportation) without advising them that they will lose their right to an attorney and will be deported again should they ever return to the U.S. This is in direct violation of the U.S. Supreme CourtÊ¼s clear direction since 1943 that immigrants be allowed to make intelligent decisions about the documents they are signing.
3. Treatment by Guards and Federal Marshals: Detainees reported numerous allegations of misconduct and physical and verbal abuse. Five detainees provided extremely disturbing accounts of strip searches. One estimated that he was strip searched 5-10 times over a period of 2-3 months following attorney
visits. During these searches, he was stripped completely and made to stand in front of officers and turn and bend over. He was not touched but felt humiliated.
4. Medical Care: Approximately 75% of detainees interviewed reported medical problems that required medical attention at the NWDC medical clinic. Eighty percent who sought care were dissatisfied with the treatment they received.
5. Food: About 80% of the detainees interviewed stated they received an insufficient quantity of food and were often hungry after meals. For those remaining in detention for months or years, scarce food results in hunger, poor nutrition, and digestive problems.
6. Living Conditions, Visitation, and Language Barriers: Interviewees detailed concerns about overcrowding and lack of privacy in the bathrooms and showers. In one area, there are 80 people who share six or seven toilets. Dining tables near the toilets give rise to concern about sanitation. One detainee reported
seeing a dead rat in the downstairs toilet that was left for two days preventing use of that toilet.
Regarding visitation, one detaineeÊ¼s wife drives for three hours from Oregon to visit him once a month with their daughter who has a debilitating illness. Upon arrival they typically wait an hour for a fifteen minute, no-contact visit. A few times, she has waited two hours to see her husband. The visits have been traumatizing. Some detainees say that the short, no-contact visits cause them to feel even more depressed and hopeless.
For such low-level crimes as misdemeanors are, the conditions at this detention facility, and we can assume at others, fulfills the old saying that the "punishment outweighs the crime."
The only question left to ask is, "Why?"