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New Report by Immigrants’ Rights Clinic & Detention Watch Network Calls for Alternatives to Immigration Detention

Washington, D.C., August 25, 2010—Detention Watch Network and Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic today issued a report calling on the Obama administration to reduce the unprecedented rate of immigration detention by adopting cost-effective, community-based alternatives that have already been implemented internationally and domestically.

According to the report, pilot programs in the United States and abroad have demonstrated that community-based alternatives to detention are cheaper, more effective, and more humane than the current U.S. immigration detention system. Specifically, the report recommends “alternatives to detention” or ATDs that rely on collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and local non-governmental organizations. The programs provide for the release of individuals from detention and ensure compliance with immigration procedures through a mixture of traditional caseworker monitoring and referral to community services.

Jacqueline Esposito, policy director at Detention Watch Network, one of the report’s authors, explained, “By ensuring that immigrants can access appropriate case management and necessary resources, such as stable housing, medical care, and legal counsel, ATD programs increase participants’ ability to prepare their immigration cases, which in turn promotes efficiency and fairness in the court process.”

The report explains that ATDs allow for the humane release of individuals who would otherwise be held for months or years in prison-like conditions while their immigration cases are pending–individuals who include survivors of torture, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, families with small children, the elderly, the gravely ill, and long-time lawful permanent residents with certain prior convictions.

“Given the proven effectiveness of ATD programs, ICE should only be able to impose physical detention if it can articulate why a person is not suitable for release or an ATD program,” said Jayashri Srikantiah, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School, who co-authored the report.

The report indicates that the current detention regime is riddled with abuses: individuals in detention experience mistreatment and neglect by detention guards; have virtually no ability to access lawyers for help with their immigration cases; wait for months and years in detention because of a clogged and inefficient immigration court system; and face incarceration far away from their families.

Although current law authorizes DHS to release immigrants outright on bond or parole, or release them into ATDs, the enforcement agency within DHS–Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE–routinely fails to do so. ICE has acknowledged an over-reliance on incarcerating immigrants in jails and prisons. Yet as the report indicates, the success of community-based ATDs has been repeatedly demonstrated by domestic pilot programs like the Vera Appearance Assistance Project (AAP); established immigration ATD programs in several other countries, including Australia, Canada, and Belgium; and ATD programs that have been used for decades in the criminal justice context.

A copy of the full report is available from the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic website on this page or by downloading the PDF.

Clinic students Stephen Dekovich, Michelle Parris, Michelle Reaves, and Jessica Spradling were instrumental in the drafting of this report.

For more information, contact:

Jayashri Srikantiah, Immigrants’ Rights Clinic of the Mills Legal Clinic at Stanford Law School, 650.724.2442; jsrikantiah@law.stanford.edu
Jacqueline Esposito, Detention Watch Network, 202.393.1044 x 223; jesposito@detentionwatchnetwork.org

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