Arizona Detention Dialogue – Key Takeaways

By Ruthie Epstein

When it comes to Arizona and immigration, the nation’s attention is focused on the fallout of the controversial SB 1070 law and harsh law enforcement practices on the border and in counties like Maricopa and Pinal. Immigration detention – what happens after an immigrant is taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – receives less attention. Yet ICE holds in detention thousands of immigrants each year in Arizona, with 2,600 beds in the state, including 700 in jails. Almost 16,000 county inmates are held in Arizona jails daily, in addition to the almost 40,000 in the state’s prison system. Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities in Arizona account for an additional 5,100 inmates.

On October 12, Human Rights First held one of our Dialogues on Detention at Arizona State University’s (ASU) Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in Tempe. We heard from immigration detention and criminal justice experts who confirmed that ICE detainees continue to be held in inappropriate conditions and offered up recommendations for reform, including community-based release, normalized conditions of confinement, and an end to mandatory detention. They also described the dire need for expanded legal information and legal representation for detained immigrants in Arizona. The great lineup of Arizona-based experts, plus two fantastic visitors from NYC and Missouri, is here.

Highlights and takeaways:

  • The immigration detention and criminal justice systems are different.
    In her keynote remarks, Dr. Dora Schriro, Commissioner of Correction in New York City and former director of the corrections departments in Arizona and Missouri, noted four fundamental distinctions: 1. Mandatory detention provisions in the immigration law require ICE to detain large categories of immigrants rather than making sound individualized judgments as to whether detention makes sense; 2. Immigrants detained by ICE don’t receive Miranda warnings – because they are detained under civil rather than criminal law, the due process requirements are different; 3. ICE interprets the law to mandate a daily detained population of 33,400; corrections systems don’t have target population levels; 4. The populations held in the two systems are different.Nevertheless, said Dr. Schriro, who served as special advisor to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2009 and issued a report on the immigration detention system, “With few exceptions, ICE facilities were originally build as jails and prisons and continue to operate true to their original mission.”
  • Hey, Congress! Alternatives to detention save taxpayer dollars.
    Noel Fidel, former judge at the Maricopa County Superior Court and the Arizona Court of Appeals, former Merriam Distinguished Visiting Professor at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, called on Congress to recognize the tremendous cost savings offered by alternatives to detention. Immigration detention costs taxpayers an average of $164 per day per detainee. Alternatives cost 30 cents to $14 per day per detainee.
  • On compliance, the basics do the trick.
    Marco Galvino, who was detained for 7.5 years while his immigration case was pending, attested that if individuals in removal proceedings have the basics in place – food, clothing, housing, legal assistance – they will show up for their hearings. Mr. Galvino now works with Restoration Project, a community-based release program at Casa Mariposa, in Tucson, which helps provide these necessities to formerly detained individuals who lack other resources.
  • Normalized conditions make for safer facilities.
    Dodie Ledbetter, Deputy Court Administrator and former Detention Director for the Pima County Juvenile Court Center, reported that Pima County has taken steps to normalize conditions in its juvenile detention facilities per recommendations from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. Changes including increased natural light, an end to the use of uniforms and institutional furniture, increased freedom of movement with camera monitors, and expanded programming have reduced violence in the facility and led to positive relationships between the kids and the staff. Gregory Cook, senior associate/designer in the Justice Group at the international architecture firm HOK, reported that his clients – including corrections departments in Arkansas and Tennessee, plus a maximum-security prison in Iowa – are asking for more normalized conditions, which allow for calmer, safer facilities.
  • Detained cases are resource-intensive and the need is dire.
    Lindsay Marshall, executive director of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, and Regina Jefferies, chair of AILA’s Arizona chapter, explained that attorneys who represent individuals in detention must dedicate extra resources to every case – they can face significant travel time to and from the facility, even more waiting time to meet with their clients, and the many challenges of fact-gathering on behalf of a person behind bars. Ms. Marshall pointed out that many detained immigrants with viable claims to relief give up their cases simply to get out of detention. (Puente reports that there’s also an urgent need for legal consultation or representation on individual cases for non-detained immigrants, especially given the heightened enforcement efforts in Arizona.)
  • Government-appointed counsel must be an option for immigrants in removal proceedings.
    Unlike individuals facing criminal charges, indigent immigrants in removal proceedings do not receive government-funded counsel, despite the seriousness of deportation, which is the potential outcome of these proceedings. Andy Silverman, Joseph M. Livermore Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs at the University of Arizona James E. Rodgers College of Law, proposed that lawful permanent residents, at least, receive government-funded counsel. Lindsay Marshall of the Florence Project proposed a hybrid model in which all individuals would receive basic legal information and those with viable claims for relief would receive appointed counsel.
  • ICE should close Pinal County Jail.
    ACLU of Arizona and other local groups continue to urge ICE to end the use of Pinal County Jail, which currently holds about 450 immigrants in ICE custody daily. The jail is subject to ICE’s 2000 National Detention Standards; two updated sets of standards have been released since that time. The ACLU’s Victoria Lopez said that women on the inside mobilized to bring to light the jail’s egregious conditions; they complained of inadequate medical care, lack of outdoor recreation, and verbal and mental abuse by staff. Most devastating for detained individuals are the lack of outdoor recreation and the lack of contact visits; family visiting their loved ones in detention can only speak to them via video, even when they are on site. In June 2012, the ACLU sent a letter to ICE that laid out the legal arguments for ending the use of Pinal County based on unconstitutional conditions of confinement. To date, the ACLU reports, ICE has not responded.Check out our reports back from the September 12 Dialogue in Texas and the September 24 Dialogue in California, and follow us @HR1stRefugees and #HRFDetention. Next up, New Orleans, at the Loyola New Orleans School of Law, Friday November 30.

Published on October 22, 2012


Related Posts

Seeking asylum?

If you do not already have legal representation, cannot afford an attorney, and need help with a claim for asylum or other protection-based form of immigration status, we can help.