Immigration solution: More prisons?

prison bars

Photo by Michael Coghlan, used under Creative Commons license

Increasing numbers of immigration arrests are pushing ICE’s plans for more immigration prisons. More migrants in detention means more difficult access to legal representation and often dismal conditions in private, for-profit prisons—like the now-shuttered private prison in Appleton, MN.

Some of those detainees are children. The latest Trump administration plan is to create detention facilities for children on military bases.

Some Democrats, led by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., propose a moratorium on construction or expansion of immigration prisons.

In other news: Attorney General Jeff Sessions expands his personal control of immigration court decisions, CityLab looks at expansive immigration police authority in the “border zones” that encompass the homes of 65 percent of all U.S. residents, and Latino USA talks to the family of a man who died after being deported.

Immigration prisons for adults and children

Prison Companies, Sherburne County, offer proposals for expanded immigration detention (Star Tribune, 5/14/18)

“The four proposals include a plan to reopen the long-shuttered private prison in Appleton, an addition to the Sherburne County jail and new private facilities in Pine Island and at an undisclosed location, according to information Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provided to the advocacy group National Immigrant Justice Center.

“Minnesota immigrant advocacy groups have decried the plan to expand detention locally, arguing it will hamper due process in immigration court. But some local officials have pushed for such facilities as economic development drivers. The plans remain at an early stage as a Trump administration bid for additional federal dollars for immigration detention stalled in Congress….

“The number of immigration inmates at five local jails that contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has climbed steadily under the Trump administration, along with the tab for housing.”

Trump administration preparing to shelter children on military bases (Washington Post, 5/15/18)

“The Trump administration is making preparations to warehouse migrant children on military bases, according to Defense Department communications, the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally….

“The bases would be used to hold minors under age 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents. HHS is the government agency responsible for providing minors with foster care until another adult relative can assume custody. ”

If parents are arrested and separated from children at the border, where do the kids go? (KPCC, 5/14/18)

“One of the challenges when the parent and child are separated is that, because of the strains on both systems, there isn’t a lot of coordination,” said Toczylowski.

“This, she said, is because children in federal shelters are in the custody of ORR while adults in immigrant detention centers are in the custody of a different agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Profiting from enforcement: The role of private prisons in U.S. immigration detention (Migration Policy Institute, 5/2/18)

“The largest private prison contractors reap sizeable annual profits from detaining immigrants, including those identified for removal, asylum seekers and others awaiting a hearing in immigration court, and those in the process of being deported. CoreCivic, Inc. and GEO Group, Inc.—which collectively manage more than half of private prison contracts in the country (including immigration and nonimmigration detention)—earned combined revenue exceeding $4 billion in FY 2017. They have spent millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions, seeking to sway the political process toward detention-focused policies that favor their interests—a tactic that appears to be paying off in the Trump era.”

Democrats propose a moratorium on immigration prisons (USA Today, 5/15/18)

“Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., are expected to file bills Tuesday that would place a moratorium on the construction or expansion of immigration detention facilities. The bill would also increase dedicate $45 million to improve federal oversight of those prisons, which have been accused of fostering dangerous conditions leading to the death of more than 170 inmates over the past 15 years.”

Jeff Sessions: Prosecutor, Judge, and Appellate Court all in one

Jeff Sessions is exerting unprecedented control over immigration courts by ruling on cases himself (Vox, 5/14/18) Immigration courts are not independent: they have always been subject to the Attorney General, but previous attorneys general have not taken over cases in the same way.  

“Sessions has stepped into the immigration system in an unprecedented manner: giving himself and his office the ability to review, and rewrite, cases that could set precedents for a large share of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants with pending immigration court cases, not to mention all those who are arrested and put into the deportation process in future.

“He’s doing this by taking cases from the Board of Immigration Appeals — the Justice Department agency that serves as a quasi-appellate body for immigration court cases — and referring them to himself to issue a decision instead.”

And in other news

Inside the massive U.S. ‘border zone’ (CityLab, 5/14/18)

“In the “border zone,” different legal standards apply. Agents can enter private property, set up highway checkpoints, have wide discretion to stop, question, and detain individuals they suspect to have committed immigration violations—and can even use race and ethnicity as factors to do so….

“That’s striking because the border zone is home to 65.3 percent of the entire U.S. population, and around 75 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population, …. This zone, which hugs the entire edge of the United States and runs 100 air miles inside, includes some of the densest cities—New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It also includes all of Michigan and Florida, and half of Ohio and Pennsylvania,…”

Reporter’s Notebook: An unexpected outcome after deportation (Latino USA, 5/14/18) Deportation, diabetes, depression, death.

“Martin had been in the United States for decades and had two adult children who were both U.S. citizens. He had lived in the U.S. for over 30 years but didn’t have legal status. He worked full time and had been showing up for routine check-ins with immigration officials at the New York City office for years. He had a deportation order, but his family and his lawyer were confident immigration officials would not consider him a priority.”

Then, under Trump administration policies, he was deported last July.

“Martin, 50, had a heart condition long before he was deported and was also diabetic. But for years he had remained healthy, taking daily medication for both conditions, and visiting his doctor in New York regularly.

“Maria told me that her father went “weeks and weeks” without his medication after he was deported to a small town in Puebla, Mexico. He was also severely depressed when he first arrived there with no job, no money and away from his family.”

Martin had a stroke and died in February. Daughter Maria says there’s “no doubt in my mind,” that he would still be alive if he had remained with his family in the United States. He was happy then, but, “that deportation broke his spirit.”

National Guard has eyes on the border,but they’re not watching Mexico (New York Times, 3/15/18)

“They are prohibited from performing law-enforcement duties, making arrests or interacting with migrants. And while troops are allowed to look across the border with their eyes, the rules on electronic surveillance place a significant restriction on the monitoring capability that federal officials have said is key to preventing illegal entries from Mexico….

“Their mission, National Guard officials said, is to monitor and detect, and to perform many of the administrative, logistical, maintenance and surveillance tasks that Border Patrol agents would be doing, so those agents can be freed up to be out in the field. Officials refer to the troops’ support role as being a “force multiplier.”


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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