Jailing Immigrants Indefinitely an Assault on Due Process: Bruce Einhorn

"Americans would be surprised to learn that thousands of the prisoners in our massive system are immigration detainees, wasting away in jail while awaiting their deportation hearings.  In many cases, immigrants in detention cannot be deported from the U.S because we lack diplomatic relations with their home country (as with Cuba) or because of long delays in travel document processing.  With immigration reform a real possibility, one would think that everyone would be on board with decreasing, not maintaining or even increasing, the number of such detainees in federal immigration custody, especially those with no violent criminal record.  Guess again.  A pending amendment to the immigration reform bill, Amendment 1203, proposed by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), would radically expand our immigration prison system.  Inhofe’s proposal would authorize the indefinite-or potentially lifelong-detention of thousands of immigrants who cannot be deported because their country refuses to take them back.  Even worse, the amendment would authorize the detention for months, even years, of people awaiting the outcome of their immigration court cases.  Such persons would be locked up without time limits and never provided the basic due process of a bond hearing, where an immigration judge could determine whether their detention is justified at all, and if so, under what circumstances.  This radical change to our immigration laws would sweep up thousands of immigrants who pose no flight risk or threat to the community, including asylum seekers with no criminal records and longtime green card holders with old or minor misdemeanor convictions for offenses like shoplifting or possession of marijuana.  This amendment would be disastrous for both our immigration system and a nation that prides itself on individual liberty and due process of law." - Bruce Einhorn, June 18, 2013.  Einhorn is a former U.S. Immigration Judge and federal prosecutor, and currently serves as a Professor of Law and Director of the Asylum and Refugee Law Clinic at the Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, Calif.