I have been getting reports from families that people are being held at detention centers for long periods of time after attempting to cross into the U.S. This is a new development, and I started to look into it further. According to ICE’s strategic plan FY 2010-2014, “The Department of Homeland Security has worked diligently to phase out a practice known as “catch and release.” Now, newly arriving aliens who do not successfully evade detection are apprehended, detained and removed as appropriate by law.”
In other words, many of these immigrants are being referred to the Justice Department, instead of being released across the border. This is very problematic for immigrants being held in the myriad of privately run prisons on the Texas/Mexico border, where there is very little chance of getting adequate legal help. There are currently thousands of immigrants being detained in remote areas where these detention centers are located and clearly not enough lawyers nearby to help them.
Advocates are well aware of the expansion of Secure Communities, and 287g, but few are yet aware of Obama’s plans to detain border crossers. This may explain why the Obama administration is seeking millions of dollars in appropriations for addition detention beds.
In fact, ICE’s current strategic plan ominously states that, “ICE will…solicit proposals for no less than four regional facilities.” The Obama administration’s plans to build four more “regional” immigrant detention facilities is already underway. A recent news report from April 16, 2011, states that officials in Sumner County, Kansas, have received a solicitation letter from the Department of Homeland Security for a stand-alone facility that would hold up to about 400 immigrants while their status is being evaluated. See story here. In addition, advocates in Texas recently sent a letter to Secretary Napolitano rebuking a solicitation letter from DHS to build one of the regional detention centers in Karnes County, Texas. See letter here. The process was secretive and moved so quickly that DHS has already awarded the $32 million contract to GEO Group, one of the larger private prison companies, to build the 600-bed detention center. See announcement here.
The Obama administration has already set in motion its multi-million dollar plans to detain immigrants who attempt to cross the border, as well as those whose status is being evaluated, instead of using alternatives to detention, such as bonds or ankle bracelets. This may explain why President Obama has been strongly resisting the calls by Latino and immigrant-rights advocates to call for a moratorium on deportations. He already has other big plans for us.