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ACLU slams Texas bill allowing indefinite detention of immigrants

Published on Fri, Jul 15, 2011

There's no sugarcoating the destructive effect that Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) bill will have on people's lives. H.R. 1932 imposes indefinite detention on immigrants who have been ordered removed but cannot be deported through no fault of their own.

The House Judiciary Committee has debated H.R.1932. This bill would strip individuals of the right to appear before a neutral arbiter to argue that their detention is unjustified. It directly contradicts recent Supreme Court decisions reiterating that the fundamental guarantee of due process applies to all individuals present in the United States.

A recent Physicians for Human Rights report documents the severe and long-lasting effects of holding people in indefinite detention, noting that "without any information about or ability to control the fact or terms of their confinement, detainees develop feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that lead to debilitating depressive symptoms, chronic anxiety, despair, dread of what may or may not happen in the future, as well as to [post-traumatic stress disorder] and suicidal ideation." Rep. Smith has provided no compelling justification to support subjecting thousands of individuals to such debilitating conditions of confinement.

Rep. Smith said last week: "Just because a criminal immigrant cannot be returned to their home country does not mean they should be freed into our communities." But no one is arguing that dangerous criminals may never be detained, only that categorically locking up dangerous and non-dangerous immigrants forever is legally wrong and inhumane.

Both the criminal justice system and civil commitment systems are in place to protect our communities from truly dangerous people. Instead of attempting to amend or reform these systems to achieve Rep. Smith's goals, this bill creates a new Guantanamo-esque legal limbo where immigrants are detained indefinitely without charge.

And it does this at the high cost of $122 per detainee per day or $45,000 per detainee per year. As the American Immigration Council has proclaimed, this bill "creates more problems than solutions."

The ACLU and many organizations and individuals oppose this bill because it would be ruinously costly and unconstitutional, and would needlessly subject thousands of people to the physically and psychologically brutalizing effects of indefinite detention. The bill has been passed out of committee and could be voted on by the House at any time. ACLU

FACTS & FIGURES

An estimated 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants live and work in the United States, roughly one in every 20 workers. Reuters

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report early in 2010 arguing against the criminalizing of the undocumented immigrants.

The use by states and localities of criminal laws to go after undocumented immigrants simply for being undocumented is generally unlawful, because the federal government has sole power to regulate immigration, the report said.

The U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson sector has made an average of 650 arrests a day so far this year. Phoenix police reported 357 extortion-related abductions in 2007 targeting people with ties to Mexican smuggling rings. Reuters

As of February 23, 2011, two major measures impacting illegal immigrants have been passed by Arizona's Senate Appropriations Committee. UPI

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