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Immigration law may result in unfair detention

What if your city was required to keep a certain number of inmates in its jails each day? New immigration mandates may be doing just that to local detention centers, who are being monitored by immigration officials to make sure that their cells are full. The so-called detention bed mandate requires facilities throughout the nation - including those in Texas - to keep some 34,000 beds full of immigration detainees at all times.

The problem with this type of mandate, of course, is that illegal immigrants can languish behind razor wire and bars for months, or even years. Housing a detainee costs about $120 per day, which adds up to a whopping $2 billion bill for the American taxpayers annually. The policy is just one of many detention mandates that have been enacted since 2009, as the national immigration perspective shifts to enforcement instead of prevention. Instead of overhauling other systems, such as guest worker mandates, national and state legislatures prefer to focus on the enforcement of existing immigration laws. A comprehensive reform has not occurred in nearly three decades.

Officials who support the measure say it compels immigration enforcement agencies to actually do their jobs; there is no reason that thousands of people should not be "caught" by authorities. Opponents of the legislation, however, include the head of the Department of Homeland Security. She argues that the policy falsely inflates immigration officials' ability to enforce existing law. Instead of holding those agencies to an arbitrary value, American legislators should work to match risk and number of detainees.

In many cases, immigrants may be being held longer than normal in order to fulfill these unfair mandates. Illegal immigrants do not deserve to be relegated to detention facilities for unreasonable periods of time simply because of such government regulations. Detainees who are being abused in this fashion may be eligible for additional assistance from a qualified immigration attorney, who can help them learn more about their legal rights and responsibilities.

Source: www.npr.org, "Little-known immigration mandate keeps detention beds full" Ted Robbins, Nov. 19, 2013

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