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12/15: Sensenbrenner Bill Boosts Immigration System's Worst: Indefinite Detentions
Released 21 December 2005  By William Youmans - Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)

Sensenbrenner Bill Boosts Immigration System's Worst: Indefinite Detentions

Press Release
December 15, 2005
Contact: William Youmans
Communications Coordinator
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)
(202) 635-5810
wyoumans@cliniclegal.org

WASHINGTON, DC - Despite broad-based agreement on the need to reform
legal immigration to the United States, House Judiciary Committee
Chairman James Sensenbrenner is promoting legislation that would worsen
one of the broken features of current immigration enforcement law. This
bill, the "Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration
Control Act of 2005" (H.R. 4437), will expand the number of detainees
held indefinitely."

The bill would overturn two Supreme Court rulings mandating fair
treatment and due process for immigrants held indefinitely by the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Under these Supreme Court
decisions and DHS's own regulations, DHS must periodically review the
continued detention of deportees whose countries have refused to take
them back. Although the vast majority of immigrants ordered deported
are removed from the U.S. immediately, a few thousand every year are
held for months or years while the U.S. government tries to execute
their removal.

Under the Sensenbrenner bill, even more of these "indefinite detainees"
would be held in legal limbo for long periods of time, separated from
families, jobs, and communities in both the U.S. and their countries of
origin. In a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, Bishop
Gerald R. Barnes, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops noted that "it is inhumane to indefinitely incarcerate persons
who have served their sentences."

The Sensenbrenner legislation does nothing to solve the real problem of
indefinite detention. DHS has the legal ability to speedily process
detainees' removal but it does not commit the resources needed to do
this in a timely way. Most "indefinite detention" cases arise from a
detainee's lack of proper travel documents, which the home country needs
to provide.

According to a CLINIC study published in September 2005, DHS has the
mechanisms in place for securing these documents, but lacks the
resources to actively pursue individual cases. The lack of allocated
resources also impedes DHS communication with detainees and their
lawyers, who often do not know what they need to do to assist DHS in
processing the detainee for deportation.

"This legislation would eliminate any possibility of release for the
vast majority of indefinite detainees, says Donald Kerwin, Executive
Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc .(CLINIC).
"Keeping an immigrant whose home country will not accept him or her
detained in prison is inconsistent with our basic notions of due process
and justice. Immigrants should not be punished with perpetual detention
because of bureaucratic incapacity or poor diplomatic relations."

Current law allows for deportees who violated the law to be considered
for temporary supervised release after serving out their sentence only
if DHS cannot remove them in six months. Under DHS rules, the agency
may detain indefinitely persons who are "especially dangerous." Thus,
the current system does not undermine DHS's ability to protect the
nation.

By categorically eliminating the possibility of supervised release for
most detainees, the bill will overwhelm existing detention capacity and
worsen pre-existing detention problems.

Before current DHS supervised release rules were established in 2001 and
expanded in 2005, the government regularly held some detainees for 5
years, 10 years, or longer with no effective court review. Aging
detainees with very old criminal convictions were warehoused, often in
for-profit prison facilities, at a cost to the taxpayer of $60 to over
$100 per person per day. The bill seeks the return of a system whereby
large groups of immigrants are held for months or years without the
chance for an individualized temporary, secure release or quick removal.

"If Mr. Sensenbrenner's bill passes, we can expect, at minimum, an
increase of thousands of indefinite detainees in U.S. detention
facilities," states Donald Kerwin. He added, "this would be a huge step
backwards. We should not expand a legal black hole that leaves migrants
imprisoned in legal limbo."

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), a subsidiary of
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is the nation's largest network
of charitable immigration services with 156 affiliates in 260 field
offices around the country. CLINIC advocates for transparent, fair and
generous immigration policies. www.cliniclegal.org


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