October 27, 2017
The ACLU of Utah joined with a number of organizations nationally on October 26, 2017 to express concern about the Trump Administration’s steps to expand immigration detention facilities across the area using private contractors. These private detention centers have been found to be woefully lacking in terms of services and conditions. The coalition letter also expressed concerns about access to legal services for those detained.
As U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeks new sites for immigration detention facilities, yesterday 14 legal service providers and immigrant rights advocates alerted the agency that adding any additional jails to the already bloated immigration detention system would severely undermine due process and civil rights for thousands of detained immigrants.
The warning was contained in a joint letter responding to ICE’s October 12 request for information (RFI) to assist in the identification of new detention sites to detain up to 3,000 people each day within 180 miles of Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, and Salt Lake City.
The letter, co-authored by representatives of the pro bono legal aid organizations primarily responsible for providing legal counsel and representation for immigrants in these regions, decries further expansion of the detention system. The organizations also inform ICE that no responders have contacted any of their organizations regarding their capacity to provide pro bono legal services to a new or expanded detention facility. The government’s RFI explicitly asks responders to submit information about access to pro bono legal services. There is no right to appointed counsel in the immigration court system, so immigrants in detention are only represented if they can retain private counsel or find free legal services.
Citing recently released data from the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the letter details the limited access to legal counsel already suffered by immigrants detained in these regions:
- Only 18 percent of people facing removal from the detained docket in Chicago are represented.
- Only 24 percent of people facing removal from the detained docket in Detroit are represented.
- Only 10 percent of those facing removal proceedings on the detained docket in Salt Lake City are represented.
- Only 21 percent of detained immigrants in Minnesota are represented.
“This attempt to expand ICE detention is part of the continued assault on immigrant communities in this country,” said Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the ACLU. “ICE’s intention to expand detention in areas surrounding four of the nation’s largest cities is deeply disturbing. This move represents further action by the Trump administration to target long term residents, including Dreamers, asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their home countries, and other immigrant communities. The ICE detention system is already notorious for inhumane and abusive conditions as well as lack of transparency and accountability. This is yet another example of the Trump administration’s dangerous immigration policies. We join our partners today to firmly oppose this unwarranted action.”
The letter details the numerous human rights violations which have been documented in the immigration detention system in recent years, as the federal government’s immigration enforcement regime has become increasingly profit-driven. “Fueled by politics and the insidious consequences of campaign donations and lobbying by the private prison industry, the immigration detention system already devalues the lives, health and safety of those jailed within its walls,” the letter states. “It is well documented that for-profit private prisons companies cut corners that maximize profits and put lives at risk.”
The letter was signed by representatives from the following organizations:
Advocates for Human Rights, Minnesota
American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU of Illinois
ACLU of Michigan
ACLU of Minnesota
ACLU of Utah
ACLU of Wyoming
Detainee Rights Clinic, James H. Binger Center for New Americans, University of Minnesota Law School
Detention Watch Network
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Immigrant Legal Services, Salt Lake City
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
National Immigrant Justice Center, Chicago
University of Minnesota Detainee Rights Clinic