Dear Congressman Bachus, Thank you very much for speaking out about the overuse of detention by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) in civil proceedings to determine the removability of individuals in the U.S. By stating and asking “it looks to me like there is an overuse of detention by this administration. If these people are not safety risks . . . why are we detaining them?,” you have joined the growing chorus of Americans who wonder why the government, during a time of fiscal crisis, spends so much money locking people up during immigration proceedings when they present no danger to society.
Earlier this month, Benach Collopy authored a brief on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association in the case of Michael Sylvain v. Attorney General before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In Sylvain, the court must decide whether the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) requires the detention of individuals convicted of certain offenses regardless of how long it has been since they were released from criminal custody.
Yesterday, after receiving a gift of $6 million, Florida Atlantic University announced that it was renaming its stadium “The Geo Group Stadium,” after the for-profit prison company, best known for operating detention facilities on behalf of Immigration & Customs Enforcement. It is remarkable that any university would name a stadium after a prison company, but simply stunning that Florida Atlantic University, which sits in South Florida, a community that has been decimated by the overuse of civil immigration, would be so tone deaf as to think this was a good idea.
The Migration Policy Institute recently released a study documenting that the U.S. government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement, dwarfing the $14 million spent on other federal law enforcement agencies. The FBI, the DEA and the ATF, combined, received $14 billion. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s budget, alone, is $6 billion. Something is seriously out of whack here. None of this is surprising to immigration attorneys. ICE runs a gulag archipelago of detention centers across the country, holding immigrants who have overstayed visas, entered without inspection, seek asylum, and committed minor offenses.
It is very true that the immigration laws need a wholesale revision. Congress needs to make substantial changes, regulations need to be re-written, precedent decisions scrapped and new guidance forthcoming. But another change is needed and this change may the hardest of all. It is a change of attitude within the agencies. We have written in this space on multiple occasions about the hostility that elements within ICE have for their political leadership and the “culture of no” within CIS has been well-documented.
This morning, we won bond for our client, who is mandatorily detained under 236(c) and hence, subject to mandatory detention. The Government lawyer, flanked by his supervisor, strenuously contended that mandatory is mandatory, but the Immigration Judge (“IJ”) found it in his jurisdiction to grant bond due to our creative lawyering and excellent grasp of recent case law. Most attorneys never challenge the detention of a client under 236(c).