New Bill Proposes to Increase and Prolong Detention

Published On: Donate

Yesterday the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held a hearing on H.R. 1932, the “Keep Our Communities Safe Act of 2011.” The bill would provide for the prolonged or even permanent detention of certain migrants with little recourse to judicial review.

The subcommittee heard testimony from a number of individuals, including an attorney from the ACLU of Southern California. The ACLU expressed strong opposition to the proposed legislation noting the due process concerns associated with the arbitrary and prolonged detention of migrants. While supporters of the legislation claimed that the act is narrowly tailored to the detention of only immigrants who pose a serious public safety risk, the ACLU said that the bill’s provision would apply to some individuals who have been convicted of minor, non-violent offenses such as receiving stolen property.

LIRS provided testimony for the hearing that described our concerns with how prolonged detention impacts vulnerable migrants, such as survivors of torture, asylum-seekers, and former refugees. Here is an excerpt from the testimony:

Isaac* fled his country to escape threats on his life by an armed faction of a political group. Upon his arrival in the United States, he presented a false passport and was removed because, not understanding United States asylum laws, he did not express his fears for his life. He returned to the United States several months later to escape another threat on his life and was placed in detention while he protested his removal. While waiting for his case to be resolved, he suffered flashbacks to the beatings he faced in his home country, to the feeling of being shot and to the fear he felt for his life. Despite the fact that Isaac* had strong family ties in the United States and posed no threat to the community, he was detained for almost three years before finally being granted protection in the United States.

Today’s hearing also highlighted the budgetary concerns associated with the proposed legislation. The subcommittee heard testimony that the federal government spends $45,000 per year on each detainee in confinement. Representative Lofgren (D-CA-16) criticized the bill as an unnecessary additional expenditure, pointing out that that current immigration detention system already costs U.S. taxpayers $1.9 billion this fiscal year.

In light of today’s hearing, LIRS calls on Congress to oppose all proposals to restrict the liberty of migrants based on determinations that do not evaluate individual risk factors or demonstrate the need to detain, to repeal federal statutes that mandate detention without an individual assessment of the need for detention, to ensure access to judicial review of any decision to restrict liberty, to oppose proposals that curtail judicial review of restriction of individual liberty, and to require any restriction of liberty be the least restrictive form of custody necessary and proportionate to meet government interests.

For more information from LIRS on immigration detention, click here.

Full text of the bill can be found here.

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