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Number of immigrant detainees remains inaccessible

The American Civil Liberties Union has been requesting data on the number of immigrants detained across the country for five years. In 2011, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan federal court per the Freedom of Information Act. The lawsuit again requested that the government produce the data.

The judge criticized the government for their refusal to produce the data, saying that they were holding up any efforts to reform a broken system, which keeps detainees in jails for prolonged periods of time, possibly some who have applied for asylum. A Sept. 9 order for the release of documents containing the data has been met with delay tactics. The government has even claimed that it would only be able to produce around 100 files in seven years.

The ACLU is requesting these numbers because they believe that immigrant detainees has increased rapidly in the last few decades and that many detainees are not being held on criminal charges. They are wondering if they are not being held for prolonged periods of time so they will be gathered in case an order to remove all undocumented immigrants from the country comes about. Some detainees are held for months or years with no criminal charges.

A computer analysis performed by The Associated Press in 2009, per the Freedom of Information Act, provided some astonishing figures. It found that there were approximately 32,000 immigrants detained and more than 18,000 had no criminal convictions. About one-third had been in custody more than one month, and of those detained for more than a year, 400 of them had no criminal records. Twelve of the 400 of which were detained more than three years and one for more than five years.

A 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling states that detained immigrants must be released or deported within six months. This is obviously not happening. Immigrant family members that are being held for deportation may have options if they have someone on the outside working for them. Family members can consult with an immigration attorney to see what options may be available. They may be able to avoid deportation altogether or opt for a voluntary departure, where they are not barred from returning.

Source:  foxnews.com, "Immigrant detainee data cannot be produced quickly, feds say," Dec. 25, 2013

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