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Immigrant Detention as a Business Model

February 10th, 2009 No comments

It probably comes as little shock to anyone paying attention that the prison system in the US is big business.

It’s quite profitable and growing every day. It even has it’s own lobbyists.

It’s not just US citizens who are being used as cash cows, immigrants are being sucked into this business as well.

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, jails all over the nation -including smaller facilities – are taking advantage of the shortage of space and the federal government’s willingness to pay by the body and are raking in millions in profits.

There are many ways that an immigrant can find their way into a detention facility. One common way it works is that when an immigrant fighting his case is either unable to pay bond is subject to mandatory detention (or who the DHS claims is subject to mandatory detention) he may sit in jail for months or even years while pursuing a remedy with the assistance of their immigration attorney, perhaps all the way through the appellate stages.

Many times these immigrants are being removed for non-violent offenses such as minor, personal, drug possession and have no other record. However, Congress has mandated that they be detained for the duration of their proceedings – even if they aren’t dangerous. This needlessly leads to job loss and family disruption as many of these immigrants have been here for decades, have relief available, and will ultimately not be deported.

For example, an immigrant who was convicted of possession of a controlled substance other than a small amount of marijuana may be eligible for relief known as “cancellation of removal” but is also subject to mandatory detention.

This means the have to stay in jail the entire time they’re fighting their case. A case that takes 6 months earns the jail on average $16,000.00 dollars. If the immigrant is denied at the immigration court level and chooses to appeal the profit for the jail increases greatly. Oddly many cases which should be approved are denied at the immigration court level and the Board of Immigration Appeals – both administrative agencies of the executive branch rather than independent tribunals.

There appears to be little incentive to let these folks go even if they’re not dangerous.

In this business model everyone wins – except the families of course.

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