Another Reason We Need Immigration Reform

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The Texas Observer‘s Melissa del Bosque has been doing some excellent reporting on the manybrokenpieces of our immigration system, and she has another must-read report in the current issue of the Austin-based biweekly. In “Point of No Return,” del Bosque investigates the astounding lack of legal representation among immigrants in detention: More than 80 percent of immigrant detainees do not have a lawyer.

This is due, in many cases, to poverty, but also to the transfer-happy officers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who frequently shuffle detainees to rural facilities far from their homes and families. “On average, 52 percent of ICE detainees–whether legal residents or illegal immigrants–are transferred at least once before they are released or deported,” del Bosque writes. She interviews one man, Rama Carty, who spent time in seven detention facilities over the course of 21 months.

Like Carty, many detainees in Texas have been relocated from urban areas in the Northeast, where detention beds are scarcer. This brings them under the sway of the 5th U.S. circuit court of Appeals, which has earned a reputation as the most conservative in the nation regarding immigration rulings–a conveyor-belt to deportation. (See “Pleading With the Fifth.”) Since most detention facilities are in Southern states like Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, ICE is sending an increasing number of detainees to the 5th circuit. When they arrive at these largely rural facilities, far from home, they find few immigration lawyers available or willing to help.

For more on the subject, read “Jailing the American Dream,” Tom Barry’s in-depth investigation into the private-prison companies profiting from immigrant detention centers. Originally published in Boston Review, the piece ran in our March-April issue.

Congratulations to The Texas Observer, which is nominated for a 2010 Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage.

Source: The Texas Observer

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