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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

Immigrants Cling to Hope for Change in the Immigration Detention System

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When President Obama was campaigning he promised to usher in a new era of government transparency and accountability. After one-year in office I can tell you as an immigration practitioner that President Obama's government has actually gotten worse for immigrants, especially for those being held in immigration detention.

One of the most glaring examples of government abuse is the repeated medical neglect of immigrant detainees. Even more shocking is the Obama administration's insistence to cover the abuses up.

Last week the Houston Chronicle released an article that revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is not enforcing its own standards of care for immigrant detainees being held in Haskell, Texas. A January 1, 2008 record shows that this man complained to facility nurses for months that he "Can't stand the pain". The facility's response to his plea for help: they gave him cold-medicine.

I have reported on this blog of my own client's neglect at the Elizabeth, New Jersey, the most glaring occurring at the Varick Street Detention Facility. As disgusting as the stories of detainee abuses are, what is even more appalling is our President's silence and total inaction on the issue.

President Obama may not have it within his power to change our beyond-broken immigration laws, but he has complete authority and control over the administrative agencies in the executive branch. Obama controls the Department of Homeland Security,
Department of Justice, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and Citizenship and Immigration Services.

So Mr. President, why the silence, and more importantly, why the complete and utter inaction to clean up your Departments? Where are the firings? Where is the shakeup? Where are the sweeping changes? Where is the hope? Where is the change?

I am tired of President Obama shifting blame to the Bush administration. The abuses, neglect, and cover-ups continue under Obama's
watch. He must take ownership of the fact that his administration is actively abusing and neglecting noncriminal immigrants that are being held in substandard and inhumane conditions for months and even years. He is failing us.

Obama's only action to date is to cart out Department Heads who say that they are looking into the problem, while promising a review of the immigration detention system. A review? To borrow from Johnny Mac: "You cannot be serious!"

I implore, no I DEMAND that our President take swift and immediate action and turn a blaring spotlight on those individuals who are within his branch of government, and under his direct control who continue to act with gross negligence, and incompetence overseeing the immigration detention system. At the very least I would expect that Obama would fire those individuals who are allowing detainee abuses and neglect to continue. As a suggestion, maybe President Obama needs to instruct Attorney General Eric Holder to launch criminal investigations into ICE employees who gave a 60 year-old Cuban immigrant cold-medicine to combat chest pain.

I'm not holding my breath.

Just as President Obama is sitting idly by watching his own flesh and blood face the uncertainty of removal by allowing the system to "take its natural course" the faceless, nameless masses who are rotting in immigration gulags across the country and have no voice must quietly endure the abuse of the employees of the Obama administration. They must hope that our President will actually do something for a change to address a problem under his control, rather than do nothing as he has done during his first year in office.

Mr. President, please give us hope that you will finally enact some change that we can believe in. Is that too much to ask?

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Updated 04-12-2016 at 12:38 PM by MKolken

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  1. sheelauday's Avatar
    A very well said article which depicts the absolute negligence of the Obama administration.
  2. Haydee Cardenas's Avatar
    Finally! someone that has the guts to tell the truth about our current immigration situation and that show the true colors of this Administration. THANK YOU VERY MUCH IN THE NAME OF ALL IMMIGRANTS DOCUCMENTED AND UNDOCUMENTED.
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