Saturday, August 13, 2011

Immigration group files suit challenging detentions

A Chicago immigration group has filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Homeland Security, charging that its practice of asking local police to detain immigrants through immigration detainers when there's no evidence of illegal activity is unconstitutional.

An immigration detainer, a key component of DHS' Secure Communities program, is a request from DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement to another law enforcement agency to keep individuals in custody so that ICE can investigate their immigration status and potentially take over custody.

"What the lawsuit alleges is that in the vast majority of cases with individuals who have detainers lodged against them, basically ICE says to the locals, 'We are instructing you to detain (an individual) after (your) authority has expired because we have initiated an investigation,' " said Mark Fleming, litigation coordinator for the National Immigrant Justice Center, the group that filed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that people are being held without probable cause that a crime has been committed, violating the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit alleges that ICE's practice also violates the Fifth Amendment guarantee of due process of law because ICE does not provide individuals with the detainer form. This complicates an individual's ability to get out on bail or to negotiate a plea bargain, Fleming said. Moreover, ICE does not give individuals an opportunity to challenge their prolonged detention, the lawsuit claims.

DHS' Secure Communities program, under which local law enforcement agencies share fingerprints with U.S. immigration authorities, has come under increasingly severe scrutiny for its controversial practices. Its goal is to identify and deport convicted felons. The program has been criticized for catching minor offenders and deterring immigrants from reporting crimes for fear of being detained.

Jose Jimenez Moreno, one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was initially arrested on a drug charge but is a U.S. citizen who cannot be deported, bringing into question ICE's stated goals, the suit says.

Some states have indicated they would like to opt-out of the Secure Communities program, but last Friday the Obama administration said it does not believe it needs state approval to continue using Secure Communities. The program is used in 70 percent of law enforcement jurisdictions and has helped deport more than 77,000 immigrants convicted of crimes.

"The Secure communities program is a catastrophe," said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "It has entangled local police ... to the detriment of civil rights. Frankly it has been leading to the 'Arizonafication' of the country."


More cash splurged on Australian government's asylum seeker bailout

A NEW deal with PNG to take asylum seekers could take several weeks to start as 102 more boat people landed.

The development today comes as the third asylum seeker boat to arrive since the "Malaysian solution" was signed plunged the Government into troubled waters.

It will be several weeks before an immigration detention centre on Manus Island is ready to take asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen today admitted that Manus Island would not be an "answer in itself'' to the people-smuggling issue, and revealed it would take several weeks for the island's detention centre to come up to appropriate standards.

"There is upgrading work to do and measures to take,'' Mr Bowen said. But he denied the arrival of three boats showed the Malaysia deal was not deterring people smugglers. "People smugglers will try it on ... using all sorts of lies about the current situation with the Malaysia court case.''

"You may be sent to Malaysia or Papua New Guinea, but you're not going to be processed in Australia,'' he told ABC Radio on Friday.

His comments came as another 102 asylum seekers landed at Christmas Island last night, including more children. This takes the number of people facing deportation to 207, more than a quarter of the 800 Malaysia will take.

The arrivals coincided with the confirmation of the fresh immigration deal - with Papua New Guinea - at further cost to taxpayers.

The boat surge increases pressure on the Government, which is facing a High Court challenge to its people swap deal that will be heard on August 22.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Government was very confident it could send asylum seekers to other countries.

Mr Bowen earlier warned that delays would provide people smugglers an angle to "spin" to desperate people willing to get on boats.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said about 770 asylum seekers had braved seas to reach Australia since the Government announced its new policy in May.

He said the deal's "use-by date" was fast approaching, regardless of the High Court challenge. "It's a one-off deal with one country with a clear use-by date and a huge cost of almost $300 million, which simply hasn't been thought through," he said.

With the deal hanging in the balance, another option for processing asylum seekers has emerged, with the Papua New Guinean Government agreeing to re-open the Manus Island detention centre.

Ms Gillard confirmed the agreement in a statement. "Arrangements are being made for a high-level delegation of Australian officials to travel to Papua New Guinea in the very near future to finalise a memorandum of understanding regarding the centre," Ms Gillard said.

"We are committed to working in partnership with PNG to examine how such a centre might operate, including how it might best complement broader regional activities."

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said Australia would meet the running costs of the centre, although details were yet to be confirmed. If the centre were renovated and run by Australian staff, it would cost millions.

As the Malaysian deal legal battle looms, the Government continues to say asylum seekers arriving at Christmas Island will be sent to Malaysia.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said people on the latest boat "will be taken to Christmas Island for pre-transfer assessments, pending removal to Malaysia".

As the asylum seekers entered legal limbo, Burmese refugees from Malaysia have arrived in Melbourne to start a new life.

The first eight to be re-settled in Melbourne are not part of the 4000 refugees Australia has agreed to take under the Malaysian deal.


No comments:

Post a Comment