(Washington, DC) –In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) this week urged immediate administrative action to cease the prolonged, indefinite detentions of immigration detainees awaiting hearings. Many immigrants are detained for months, even years, while cases are pending, an inexcusable and costly denial of due process. And although many detainees have not violated any criminal laws, they are kept separate from their families often at facilities located in another state.
In his letter, Blumenthal calls on Homeland Security to require bond hearings for all individuals detained for more than six months. Further, he asks that Homeland Security adopt an interpretation of “custody” that includes forms of custody short of physical detention, including electronic monitoring and house arrest. Such forms of detention have been proven effective at a fraction of the cost of physical detention.
“These two administrative actions can, and should be taken as soon as possible. I urge DHS to adopt these changes in order to rectify the indefensible denial of due process rights to ICE detainees and to reduce the unnecessary costs of physical detention,” Blumenthal states.
"Federal courts around the nation have rejected ICE’s unlawful interpretation of the immigration detention statutes, holding repeatedly detaining people without even a chance to plea for their freedom is inexcusable and illegal," said Tina M. Thomas, law student intern in the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. "Some of our clients--like Connecticut residents Mark Reid and Arnold Giammarco--are those who have served honorably in our military. Imagine their shock in learning that the very government they served could do this to them."
"I thank Senator Blumenthal for addressing this critically important issue - and one that is a matter of basic fairness: that detention decisions should be appropriate to the individual, based on actual risk, not arbitrary categorization. It's common sense, good policy, and consistent with our nation's values,” said retired immigration judge Paul Grussendorf.
“AILA commends Senator Blumenthal in his efforts to push for the expanded use of alternative forms of custody for individuals in civil immigration detention. These alternatives are both effective and more cost efficient than institutional detention. They also help alleviate the stress placed on the families and communities of detainees in removal proceedings,” said Crystal Williams, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“In a nation that values freedom, family unity and due process, and during a time when most are calling for reduced and more strategic federal spending, locking immigrants up should be the exception to the rule,” said Linda Hartke, the President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people. “While Americans still wait for Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, the actions urged by Senator Blumenthal are an important step to allow ICE and immigration judges to make individualized assessments to better uphold the rights of all persons and protect against arbitrary detention.”
"Human rights principles demand that immigration detention be used as sparingly as possible. Under current US policy, the opposite is happening: mass detention of immigrants, many of whom are denied any review of whether they are a genuine flight risk or threat to public safety. By providing for bond hearings to individuals detained for more than six months and allowing alternatives to physical custody, the US government would be taking an important step toward better protecting the human rights of immigrants,” said Alison Parker, U.S. Program Director for Human Rights Watch.