Wednesday, July 29, 2009

National Immigration Law Center Report: Substantial and Pervasive Violations of Minimum Governmental Standards at Detention Centers

The National Immigration Law Center posted a report that was the "first-ever system-wide look at the federal government’s compliance with its own standards regulating immigrant detention facilities, a view based on previously unreleased first-hand reports of monitoring inspections. The results reveal substantial and pervasive violations of the government’s minimum standards for conditions at such facilities." The report cited standard violations with regard to attorney and loved one visitation, telephone access, access to legal materials, administrative and disciplinary segregation, and holding cells. The report recommended that the government improve its accountability within the system, promote uniformity across the various detention centers, increase transparancy within the system and stop the increase of detention and come up with alternatives to detention.

As we mentioned in our May 2008 ISAAC E-Newsletter, deportation and removal proceedings are not criminal proceedings but are civil in nature. In these proceedings, the USCIS must prove that the alien is deportable by "clear and convincing" evidence. This is a lower threshold than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard in criminal proceedings. The civil nature of deportation proceedings is also important because the alien has no right to court-appointed counsel or a jury trial. An immigration judge decides whether the alien is deportable from the country. The judge may order the alien removed from the country or, if circumstances permit, allow him to remain and adjust his status. Another important distinction is that if the alien is detained by the USCIS, the detention is not a punishment for their immigration violations. Rather, it is a statutorily permissible detention to prevent flight risk and facilitate removal of the alien from the country.

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