Food for Thought03 Dec 2009
Something to keep in mind, when the immigration reform debate resumes on Capitol Hill, sometime in the coming months: the population at immigration detention facilities has doubled in the past decade, according to statistics released by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research arm of Syracuse University.
TRAC has combed through millions of government documents, many secured through the Freedom of Information Act, to determined that the number of individuals now held in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is estimated to have reached 369,483 detainees, as of the end of fiscal year 2009. This is more than double the FY1999 number, according to TRAC’s website. (See: “Huge Increase In Transfers of ICE Detainees,” posted Dec. 2, 2009.) Most alarming is the percentage of the detainee population that is routinely subject to transfer to other ICE detention facilities; according to TRAC’s research, one of five detainees was transferred in FY1999, while the FY2008 numbers show that more than half – a full 52.4 percent – of all ICE detainees were transferred during their time of custody.
Transfers are problematic because they make it more difficult for families to visit, and to keep track of the whereabouts of relatives who have been placed in detention for immigration violations. It also makes it much harder for detainees to get legal representation to resolve whatever technical problem landed them in detention in the first place. This is troublesome on several fronts, and both the general public, and our elected representatives, should put this matter on the front burner when the immigration reform debate is renewed.