DUE PROCESS DENIED! — NIJC REPORT FINDS THAT DHS DETENTION IN OBSCURE LOCATIONS DEPRIVES MIGRANTS OF MEANINGFUL ACCESS TO COUNSEL! — This Is What Happens When We Enable The “American Gulag!”

http://www.immigrantjustice.org/research-items/report-what-kind-miracle-systematic-violation-immigrants-right-counsel-cibola-county

A new in-depth study by the National Immigrant Justice Center (“NIJC”) shows how the Administration is intentionally using detention to deny Constitutional Due Process of Law to some of the most vulnerable:

“Introduction

Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico

When Donald Trump was elected president, the immigration detention system was already mired in such dysfunction that it routinely threatened the lives of those trapped inside. More than a year later, the administration intentionally uses its broken network of hundreds of immigration jails to advance an agenda that prioritizes mass deportation above respect for basic rights. This report focuses on the Cibola County Correctional Center, a prison complex in rural New Mexico owned and operated by the private prison giant CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America)1 with the capacity to jail 1,100 immigrants facing deportation. Located far from any major urban center in a state with no immigration court, the prison has become a black hole of due process rights.

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is particularly alarmed by the lack of meaningful access to counsel at the Cibola prison. Federal immigration law allows immigrants the right to counsel in deportation proceedings, but immigrants must locate and pay for it themselves. Immigrants detained in Cibola and many other immigration jails nationally are unable to avail themselves of this right because the capacity of nearby legal service organizations to provide representation is dwarfed by the need. An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time — six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017. The due process violations occurring at Cibola and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prisons are the latest consequences of the Trump administration’s scheme to jail so many immigrants, and in such remote locations, that their right to representation is rendered meaningless.

An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time – six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017.

In light of DHS’s systematic and willful rights violations, NIJC calls on the agency to close detention facilities like Cibola, where due process is non-existent given individuals’ lack of access to counsel, and demands that Congress immediately cut funding for DHS’s enforcement and detention operations. (See Recommendations.)

U.S. Immigration Detention National Average Daily Population From 1994 To 20172
U.S. Immigration Detention National Average Daily Population from 1994 to 2017
. . . .
Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, NM

 

The Future Of Immigration Detention: Why Cibola Matters

DHS paid little heed to the dearth of affordable legal services near Cibola when it entered its agreement with Cibola County and CoreCivic. Such a lapse is by no means new or unique. DHS has grown and maintained the immigration detention system in a manner incompatible with civil rights and due process protections.

In many ways, the Trump administration inherited an immigration detention system already riddled with abuse and neglect. Detained individuals, advocacy organizations including NIJC, and DHS’s Office of Inspector General have reported for decades on the profoundly inhumane conditions pervasive throughout the detention system, including: the excessive and arbitrary use of solitary confinement;22 inadequate, unsafe and spoiled food service;23 abuse of force by officers;24 and deaths attributable to medical negligence.25 Rather than assess possible reforms to address these problems—as the non-partisan Homeland Security Advisory Council advised in late 201626—the Trump administration quickly implemented changes that exacerbated existing harms. Today, DHS jails approximately 40,000 immigrants daily —more than any administration in recent history27— and holds them longer.28 The administration has publicly embraced the use of prolonged detention for asylum seekers29 and moved to weaken the standards governing conditions of detention.30

The administration seems poised to duplicate Cibola throughout the country. Its goal is clear: by undermining detained immigrants’ access to counsel, the administration ratchets up its removal rates.

Immigrants in detention centers throughout the country face the same frustrations as those jailed at Cibola when they try to find a lawyer. Nationally, fewer than one in every five immigrants in detention is able to find a lawyer.31 The Los Angeles Times recently reported that about 30 percent of detained immigrants are jailed more than 100 miles from the nearest government-listed legal service provider,32 with a median distance between the facility and the service provider of 56 miles.33

Access to counsel is important. Unrepresented, a detained immigrant, who often does not speak English, must develop her own legal arguments for relief eligibility, gather evidence that is often only available from within her country of origin (where she may fear for her own or her family’s safety), complete an application in English, and present a coherent presentation of her case to an immigration judge, all while a government-funded DHS prosecutor argues for her deportation.34 Faced with such a daunting task, immigrants enduring the isolation of detention are far less likely than those living in the community to defend against deportation and less likely to win their cases when they do so. The psychological harms caused by detention, especially for those with previous histories of torture or trauma,35 are so debilitating that even those with the strongest claims to legal protection in the United States often abandon the process and choose deportation instead.36 Detained immigrants with lawyers are 11 times more likely to pursue relief and are at least twice as likely to obtain relief as detained immigrants without counsel.37 A study analyzing the impact of appointed counsel for detained immigrants in New York City found a 1,100 percent increase in successful outcomes when universal representation became available..38

There is no doubt that DHS knows what it is doing. NIJC’s 2010 report Isolated in Detention documented the due process crisis already unfolding in the immigration detention system. At that time, NIJC found that 80 percent of detained immigrants were held in facilities that were severely underserved by legal aid organizations, with more than 100 immigrants for every full-time nonprofit attorney providing legal services.”40 The report presented eight recommendations to DHS and the Department of Justice to improve access to legal counsel for detained immigrants.41 Not one of the recommendations has been adopted or implemented by either agency.

Recently, DHS announced its interest in building new prisons in or near southern Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Salt Lake City, Utah. The agency stated its goal was to increase the system’s capacity by up to 4,000 more beds.42Legal aid organizations in these regions sent a letter to DHS explaining that they would have little or no capacity to provide meaningful access to counsel if the government carries out this expansion.43 As of publication of this report, DHS has not responded to this letter nor contacted any of the organizations to assess access to legal counsel.

The administration seems poised to duplicate Cibola throughout the country. Its goal is clear: by undermining detained immigrants’ access to counsel, the administration ratchets up its removal rates.

When the administration flaunts its record rates of deportations, it is telling a story of what happens to immigrants like Christopher and hundreds of others at Cibola who face insurmountable barriers to justice, not describing a legitimate outcome of enforcement of United States law. Jailing immigrants during their deportation proceedings makes it significantly more likely they will be deported, regardless of the merits or strength of their defense to deportation. At Cibola and prisons like it throughout the United States, incarceration has become another weapon in the administration’s arsenal, intended to facilitate mass removals no matter the cost to due process or civil rights.

 

Recommendations

DHS must close detention facilities like Cibola, where due process is non-existent given individuals’ lack of access to counsel.

Congress must cut appropriated funds for immigration detention, in light of the civil rights and due process crisis within the system.

Specifically, Congress must:

  1. Cease funding to detain individuals where there is no evidence of flight or security risk.
  2. Engage in robust oversight to ensure that when DHS does utilize detention, funding is only available for facilities where there  is sufficient access to legal counsel (an established immigration bar) and adequate health care for individuals in detention.

 

A Note On Methodology

For the survey cited in this report, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) undertook a census of all the attorneys we could identify who regularly practice immigration law in New Mexico and Texas. The intent was to determine 1) the number of attorneys available to take immigration cases out of the Cibola County Correctional Center and 2) the maximum number of cases each attorney could take at a given time. NIJC staff identified all attorneys in New Mexico who, as of July 2017, were members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the primary membership association for immigration attorneys in the United States (identified using the membership directory at http://www.aila.org/member-directory). Through informal conversations with AILA members and legal aid organizations, NIJC staff added other New Mexico- and Texas-based attorneys to the list who were identified as providing even minimal legal representation at Cibola. NIJC staff and interns reached out to each of these attorneys via email and telephone. NIJC communicated directly via phone or email with an attorney or authorized staff person at all but nine of the 60 offices on the final list. Each attorney was asked whether they were able and willing to provide legal representation to individuals detained at Cibola, for a fee or on a low-cost or pro bono basis, and if so approximately how many cases they could take at maximum capacity. The detailed results of this census are on record with NIJC.

In addition to these census questions, NIJC staff held more extensive interviews with staff members at the following nonprofit legal service providers: Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico (Las Cruces, NM); Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (El Paso, TX); Instituto Legal (Albuquerque, NM); Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center (El Paso, TX); the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (Albuquerque, NM); and Santa Fe Dreamers Project (Santa Fe, NM). Additionally, in June 2017 NIJC staff members visited the Cibola prison, where they spoke with 12 individuals detained at the facility whose insights inspired and contributed to this report. Notes from these conversations are on record with NIJC. Notes from all of these conversations are on record with NIJC.

Acknowledgements

The principal authors of this report are NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman and NIJC Director of Communications Tara Tidwell Cullen, with research and editing contributions from NIJC colleagues Keren Zwick, Diane Eikenberry, Mary Meg McCarthy, Claudia Valenzuela, Julia Toepfer, and Isabel Dieppa. NIJC interns Linda Song and Anya Martin also contributed to this report. Sincere thanks for insights and support from Jessica Martin and Rebekah Wolf of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Allegra Love of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Yazmin Ruiz of United We Dream, and the detained immigrants whose experiences are described in this report.

All photos credit the National Immigrant Justice Center.”

 

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Read the complete report at the link.

NIJC confirms what most of us involved in the immigration justice system already know — that the Trump Administration has “doubled down” on the Obama Administration’s misguided detention policies to create an “American Gulag.” A key feature of the Gulag is using captive so-called “U.S. Immigration Courts” in prisons. Such “captive prison courts” actually are parodies of real independent courts empowered to require Due Process for migrants and adherence to the rule of law. Immigration detention is a national disgrace for which all of us should be ashamed.

But, don’t expect any improvement from the Trump Administration unless the Article III Courts require it or we get a different Congress at some point. (I note that a few Democrats have honed in on this issue and introduced the “Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act” which unfortunately is DOA in this Congress.) Given the performance of the Article IIIs to date in this area, and the Trump Administration’s “quietly successful” program to stock the Article IIIs with right-wing ideologues, I wouldn’t count on that either. On the other hand, I’ve seen even very committed conservative jurists reach their “breaking point” on Government immigration abuses once they become life-tenured Federal Judges and are no longer directly accountable to their right-wing “political rabbis.” Denial of statutory, Constitutional, and Human Rights sometimes crosses over ideological fault lines.

Kudos to my good friends and dedicated defenders of Due Process and Human Rights Heidi Altman and Diane Eikenberry of the DC Office of the of the NIJC/Heartland Alliance for their leadership role in exposing these continuing abuses and making a record for future generations to understand and hopefully act on our current failure to make “equal justice for all” a reality in America and the related failure of our U.S. Immigration Courts to live up to their commitment to use “best practices” to “guarantee fairness and due process for all.”

PWS

12-05-17

CALLING FORMER FEDS – SIGN THIS LETTER TO SUPPORT DACA! — DEADLINE IS NOV. 30!

CLICK HERE FOR THE INFO:

https://goo.gl/forms/qj4DhUYYVBxsXSiY2

Thanks to my good friend, pro bono superstar, and Member of the NDPA, Diane Eikenberry, Associate Director for Policy, over at the Heartland Alliance for sending this my way!

PWS

11-22-17