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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal


  1. ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch Reiterate Calls for Closure of Detention Facility

    by , 06-19-2014 at 02:58 PM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    The following press release was brought to my attention by Chuck Kuck:

    For Immediate Release

    June 19, 2014

    Worsened Conditions at Stewart Led to Hunger Strike Last Week

    ACLU of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch Reiterate Calls for Closure of Facility

    Atlanta – The ACLU Foundation of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch express grave concern about news of a hunger strike at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia last week. Discontent has long been brewing over the poor quality of the food, desperately inadequate medical care, and unlivable conditions. A group of detained immigrants decided to organize together in protest. According to multiple reports, instead of addressing the complaints, guards placed hunger strikers and the entire unit on lock-down. The ACLU of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch call for transparency from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and reiterate their previous calls for closure of this corporate-run facility.

    On or around June 12, 2014, reportedly hundreds of detained immigrants participated in a hunger strike – instead of eating their food, they threw it away. It has been confirmed by several detained men that immigrants in Unit 6 (or Pod 6) were involved in the hunger strike. Detained immigrants, family members, and immigration attorneys have reported several immediate reasons for the strike. The same water used to boil eggs was reportedly being used to make coffee and maggots were found in the food. Immigrants working in the kitchen have stated that food preparation facilities were unsanitary and had a roach infestation. Two or three-day-old food was often served, even though it had gone bad.

    Multiple reports from detained immigrants and immigration attorneys state that there was a facility-wide, 24-hour lockdown in response, and participating units were shut down even longer. Other reports indicate the use of pepper spray.

    “This is symptomatic of the complete disregard for the basic human rights of detained immigrants at Stewart,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director with the ACLU of Georgia. “It is high time for this facility, named as one of the worst in the country, to be shut down.”

    In addition to the inedible food, there have been several other reported complaints and catalysts for the strike. Based on statements from the wife of a detained man as well as information obtained by a media source, units go several days without hot water in the shower. In one of the units, only three out of 10 showers were working for a period of time. The temperature is also an issue – the facility reportedly shuts down the air conditioning from 10 p.m. to about 6 a.m. to cut costs. One detained immigrant said that because of this, they are forced to sleep in sweltering temperatures. Another commonly reported problem is that despite a majority of the population being unable to speak English proficiently, there is not a full-time interpreter at the facility. This has caused problems with communicating needs, particularly during medical emergencies.

    There are significant reported inadequacies in medical care and attention. One detained immigrant explained that he has nerve damage from an auto accident that occurred prior to his detention. He had previously been receiving prescription medication, but since being detained at Stewart, he has only been allowed Ibuprofen.

    Ismael, an immigrant formerly detained at Stewart, spoke about his harrowing experience attempting to obtain emergency medical care. He suffers from high blood pressure, which only become worse upon being detained. On March 9, 2014, he passed out in his unit, laid there for 15 to 20 minutes before a nurse came to see him, and then spent another 45 minutes in an ambulance to be transported to a hospital almost 40 miles away. He was diagnosed as having had a stroke. After being released three days later, he was not given any further treatment, follow-up, or even a lower bunk, as requested. He suffered another stroke a month later that has left him with numbness in the head and extremities as well as headaches. According to Ismael, the only treatment prescribed to him was pills for the headache. After suffering through his detention at Stewart, Ismael has decided to sign his deportation papers and leave behind his life in the U.S.

    Alcides also shared his story. He became a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. in 1996. He is a veteran, having fought and been injured in the Iraq war. He is wheelchair-bound and suffers from PTSD. Every time that ICE has transported Alcides, officers have failed to provide an accessible vehicle, and he has been forcibly removed from his wheelchair. On one occasion, he was made to stand, causing him severe pain, and he has since lost feeling in his legs altogether. He is unable to shower by himself and has gone at least three and a half weeks without showering due to lack of assistance. After the recent use of pepper spray at the facility, he suffered seizures and was not provided with the correct medication upon return to the facility from the hospital. He refuses to eat until provided the right medication.

    This is in line with the findings of the ACLU of Georgia May 2012 Report, “Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia.” After a three-year investigation based on interviews with 68 immigrants in detention in Georgia facilities, family members, immigration attorneys, and review of documents obtained from the government, the report concluded that Stewart has consistently failed to provide basic medical care, hygienic conditions, or edible and adequate food for those in detention. The facility was understaffed – without a physician for more than three years, with only seven nurses for the 1,752 detained men. According to detained immigrants, treatment was often refused, unreasonably delayed, or mishandled.

    Detained men who complained or spoke up suffered retaliation, they told the ACLU of Georgia. A commonly utilized tactic was punishing immigrants by placing them in solitary.

    “It does not seem as though anything has changed at Stewart despite years of advocacy by detained immigrants, their family members, and human rights organizations” said Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director of the Georgia Latino Alliance of Human Rights. “If anything, conditions have worsened.”
    Stewart has been named by the Detention Watch Network and other national organizations as one of the ten worst facilities in the country.
  2. Statement from on the Warehousing of Children on the Border

    by , 06-18-2014 at 01:43 PM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    For Immediate Release: June 18, 2014

    Contact: Lucia Allain, 703.220.2903,

    Pressure Increases for President Obama to Address the Humanitarian Crisis on the Border

    Statement from Mariana Ruiz Firmat, Managing Director of, about the warehousing of children on the border:

    “It is morally reprehensible that children found crossing the border by themselves continue to be warehoused inhumanely inside of military bases sleeping on cold concrete floors. Meanwhile, our politicians are using their fate as policy bargaining chips, and a broken immigration system is trying to deport them. members are calling on President Obama and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to end this humanitarian crisis, and do the right thing by granting these children immediate asylum and uniting them with their families in the United States."

    Nearly 14,000 members have called on the President to bring an end to the suffering that’s happening to children on the border.

    ### is the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group with more than 300,000 members, all working to amplify the political voice of Latino communities.
  3. 58 Members of Congress Urge President to Enact Humane Deportation Policies

    by , 06-13-2014 at 08:26 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    From Rep. Quigley's website:

    Jun 12, 2014

    Press Release

    WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Suzan DelBene (WA-01) sent a letter with 56 of their colleagues urging the Obama Administration to take greater action to revise immigration enforcement procedures and provide relief from unnecessary detention and deportation.

    “The president must act where House leadership has not and improve our broken immigration system by promoting more humane and cost-effective deportation and detention policies,” said Rep. Quigley. “Every day we fail to act is another day that families are needlessly torn apart, entire communities are disrupted and America moves further away from our founding principles of fairness and justice.”

    “Our broken immigration system is hurting Washington state’s economy and families. Today far too many individuals, who pose no risk to the public’s safety, are being detained or face deportation, needlessly tearing them away from their loved ones,” said Rep. DelBene. “The Administration should focus on dangerous individuals, not honor students and skilled workers contributing to our economy. What’s more, executive action is not enough. House leadership must stop delaying and move forward to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation.”

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) currently uses a one-size-fits-all approach, detaining and deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year who pose no threat to public safety, separating families and disrupting communities. The letter urges the Obama Administration to exercise its legal authority to provide additional relief from detention and deportation, prioritizing our resources to remove those who pose a public safety or national security risk. Among the recommendations included in the letter are an expansion and more consistent application of prosecutorial discretion, as well as increase in the use of more humane and cost effective secure alternatives to detention.

    Over the last five years, DHS has removed a record two million people at a time when border crossings are at a 40-year low. DHS is currently detaining 430,000 individuals each year. These record-high detention levels are costing American taxpayers $2 billion annually, despite the availability of alternatives to detention at a fraction of the cost.

    The full text and signatories of the letter can be found here.
  4. Reps. Roybal-Allard and Schiff Offer Amendment to Defund Deportation of Parents

    by , 06-11-2014 at 01:36 PM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    June 11, 2014

    Ben Soskin
    (202) 225-1766

    Measure to Keep Families Together Falls Short in House Appropriations Committee

    Washington, DC – Today, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Adam Schiff (CA-28) offered an amendment during the Homeland Security Appropriations Act markup which failed by a vote of 23-26, but which garnered votes from two Republican members of the Committee. The amendment would have defunded the deportation of parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident children. The amendment would ensure that funds provided to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be spent on those who represent true public threats rather than deporting individuals with deep roots in the community and tearing apart families.

    "I am proud to cosponsor this amendment. It will prevent the deportation of parents who have young children and who pose no threat to their communities or our country,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “Today, about 5,000 American citizen children are in the child welfare system because of the deportation of a parent. This situation is both heartbreaking and completely unnecessary. Instead of tearing families apart, ICE should focus its limited resources on criminal offenders and others who endanger our families and our communities. It is critical that we take action on this issue. With every day that we wait, more families will face severe financial hardships, and more loving mothers and fathers will be unjustly separated from their kids."

    “Our current immigration system is broken – and until we can come together to act on comprehensive immigration reform legislation, we have a humanitarian duty to mitigate the harm we are doing to millions of families – and in particular, the practice of deporting the parents of American kids,” said Rep. Schiff. “Inaction has exacted a terrible toll on innocent families and children – over 5.5 million children who themselves are in this country legally as citizens or lawful permanent residents, have at least one undocumented parent, and the stress caused by fear of deportation, or actual deportation, of a parent places enormous strain on a child’s well-being, disrupts developmental process and negatively impacts educational outcomes. It also runs deeply contrary to our devotion to family.”

    The lawmakers plan to offer a similar amendment on the House floor during the debate on this appropriations act.

    According to a Family Unity, Family Health study, “How Family-Focused Immigration Reform Will Mean Better Health for Children and Families,” in 2012 alone, 88,517 immigrants who reported to have at least 1 U.S. citizen child were removed from the U.S. Per a June 2013 report by Human Impact Partners, last year the U.S. spent more than $1.2 billion to deport parents of U.S.-citizen children.

    “Today, well over 5.5 million children in the United States have at least one undocumented parent and the stress caused by the fear of deportation, or the actual deportation, of a parent is uniformly negative to a child’s health. It is unconscionable and un-American to expose a single child, let alone millions, to this cruel and unusual anguish and Congress should play no part in funding it,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition For Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). “The Schiff/Roybal-Allard amendment would protect the sanctity and integrity of the family unit here in the United States by defunding the deportation of parents and legal guardians of LPR/U.S. citizen children and other minors and those with deep community ties. Not one more American tax payer dollar should be allowed to be spent on the demise of our greatest institution, the family.”

  5. On Immigration Reform, President Obama Is Betting On The Guys In The Black Hats

    by , 06-03-2014 at 02:50 PM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    The following was originally published on Fox News Latino.

    President Obama’s decision to delay the release of the results of the review of his administration’s deportation policies is political folly and has been interpreted as a knife in the back of his most ardent supporters.

    The response from the immigration reform community has not been favorable. United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, expressed “outrage” at the president’s decision. They see him “cowering” to House Republicans while demonstrating “complacency and willingness to deport more than 1,100 people every day and separate countless families, cementing his legacy as the Deporter in Chief.”

    Erika Andiola of the Dream Action Coalition was "appalled" by the president's decision stating that “while we keep waiting, more and more families continue to be detained and deported.”

    The New York Times editorial board called the delay “ridiculous” and “infuriating” commenting that the move has resulted in individuals being forced to live in fear as Obama’s deportation machine continues to grind up families, while also expressing skepticism of the president’s “oft-repeated, oft-failed strategy of waiting for Republican legislators to do their jobs.”

    The irony is that House Republicans aren’t happy with the delay either. House Judiciary member Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) complained that “When the president says that he’s going to set a time limit and then consider taking actions himself … that makes doing immigration reform harder, not easier.”
    So much for giving the GOP space to move on reform.

    Director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz exercised damage control stating that "The president really wants to maximize the opportunity to get a permanent solution enacted, which requires Congress." Absent from her explanation is an acknowledgment that the president maintains the constitutional authority to expand prosecutorial discretion initiatives in a way that would provide immediate and permanent solutions to what could be millions of undocumented immigrants who either have strong family or employment ties to the country.

    Specifically, an expansion of “parole in place” already extended to family members of military personnel.

    Parole in place is a legal mechanism that circumvents the harsh consequences of the 1996 immigration law signed by President Clinton. It confers temporary legal status to individuals that enables them to apply for a Green Card from inside the United States if otherwise eligible. This is necessary because Clinton’s law established penalties for individuals that either entered the United States without inspection or overstayed their visa, cutting off the ability to apply for legal status from inside the country. The Catch-22 is that in most instances departure automatically triggers a 10-year bar, preventing those same individuals from applying for immigration benefits from home absent a waiver, which may or may not be available, and is difficult to obtain.

    Should the president expand the parole in place initiative beyond family members of military personnel, undocumented immigrants with certain United States citizen relatives would be afforded an opportunity to get right with the law from inside the country without needing a waiver and without having to endure extended and destructive separation from their family. These are the same people who the administration has purportedly deemed a low priority for deportation, and the polls show the majority of Americans want to protect.

    The point being, the president doesn't need the Republicans to act to start fixing problems now. More importantly, the immigrant community can’t wait another three months and approximately 100,000 deportations for him to stop destroying immigrant families with deportation.

    So what would the political fallout be if the president unilaterally implemented constitutionally permissible prosecutorial discretion initiatives? From what I’ve seen very little, as the window for immigration reform in 2014 is only open a crack, and the Republicans are quickly slamming it shut with calls for more interior immigration enforcement.

    The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that if it were my parent or spouse facing an immediate threat of deportation I wouldn’t put my money on the guys wearing the black hats. Suffice it to say, the time has long past for someone to ride in on a White House horse with six-guns a blazin’ to save the day.

    It’s high noon Mr. President.
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