Friday, September 11, 2009

Migration Policy Institute Release Report on ICE

The Migration Policy Institute has released a report entitled "Immigrant Detention: Can ICE Meet its Legal Imperatives and Case Management Responsibilities?" (For the press release on the report, click here. For the full text, click here.) ICE recently disclosed that 10 more detainees had died in custody between 2004 and 2007 than was previously reported. ICE currently has 32,000 people in its custody, and this report examines whether ICE is capable of gathering enough data to maintain its database and track individual cases. ICE announced in August that it plans to overhaul the detention system, by centralizing management and correcting some concerns about detention conditions. This report analyzes whether ICE has the capacity to do so.

Some highlights of the report:

- The average length of detention for detainees who had not yet received a removal order was 81 days, although some had been held for over a year.

- For the 34% of detainees who had received a removal order, the average length of detention following that order was 72 days.

- 58% of detainees did not have a criminal record. More than 400 detainees without criminal records had been held for more than a year.

The report concludes that ICE needs new and different information in order to ensure that it is processing detainees in an appropriate manner. Improved detention standards and proper enforcement of those standards would ensure that people held in detention centers receive a minimum standard of care. Improved databases would ensure that detainees are processed on an individual basis. Such databases would allow ICE to check whether a person in custody has a claim to U.S. citizenship. They would also allow ICE to consider whether a detainee is eligible for release, or for a non-custodial program. If ICE is going to try to craft a "civil" detention system, this report may serve as one part of a guide for how to achieve that goal.

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