February 25, 2013
Caving to Pressure, ICE Begins Releasing Low-Priority Detainees Nationwide
Wave of releases will not cover up disingenuous record on deportations
NATIONAL—The National Immigrant Youth Alliance is hearing from contacts at multiple detention centers across the country that low-priority detainees are being released in large groups without bond. The office of US Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has confirmed that this move by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is related to sequestration. While congressional sequestration talks may provide convenient timing for the administration, this is a direct response to the pressure placed on the administration from NIYA, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others who demand that it back away from its aggressive deportation regime.
“Lots of us are getting out who were brought in for driving without a license or other small things,” said Manuel Perez, a detainee at Polk Detention Center in Livingston, Texas. Dozens of people in any given facility we have contacted are being released simultaneously. “I hope more of us are able to get out soon.” Polk is owned by GEO Group, Inc., a private prison company which has been under heavy public scrutiny for its record of mistreatment and neglect of detainees.
Last week it was revealed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had violated its own policy of prosecutorial discretion through such egregious practices as trolling state Department of Motor Vehicles records and using traffic safety stops. In North Carolina, one recent immigration checkpoint was established under the guise of the state’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign. Today, we have heard that dozens of detainees have been released from facilities in Florida, New Orleans, and Texas. We are currently trying to determine where else this has occurred.
Between 2008 and 2012, only 22 percent of ICE detainees were convicted of any crime at all. We have always known that prosecutorial discretion was not strictly followed, but the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made by the ACLU revealed that National ICE instructed its regional offices explicitly to violate policy upheld by the president and reiterated in testimony before Congress from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. After hearing of this explicit directive to counteract public ICE policy, we called on ICE Director John Morton to resign.
The people being released today are people ICE could have released months—or in some cases, years—ago. If ICE adhered to its own policies, they would have. As the president continues to push for immigration reform, his record on deportations will only stand in greater contrast with the policies he has proposed.