Tag: immigration law

Prosecutor pleads for humane and flexible immigration law

This CQ op-ed from former prosecutor Robert Johnson (no, he’s not the crossroads guy) touches on the  often bizarre structural issues prosecutors and judges face when they handle immigration cases.  Too often, their hands are tied by punitive laws created by opportunistic politicians.  As Johnson makes clear, there is little room for common sense and compassion in the present system.  It would be tragic if, in the name of compromise, immigration reform reduced the discretion of judges and prosecutors still further.  AGB

Justice System Should Determine Which Immigrants Are Public Safety Risk

By Robert Johnson

May 16, 2013

We are on the cusp of finally realizing federal immigration reform in the United States. As our nation’s lawmakers debate this much anticipated bill, it is essential that we are diligent in ensuring that all aspiring citizens have a fair shot at the pathway to citizenship. There are those who believe that anyone with a criminal conviction, no matter how minor or old, should be shut out of this process and deported. I strongly disagree. (more…)

Private prisons for immigrants attacked by advocacy groups

By Alan Bean

This Texas Tribune article touches on a topic dear to all Friends of Justice, the use of underfunded and inept private prisons to house immigrants.  We have had long conversations with many of the people quoted below in recent weeks because they are the experts on this distressing topic.

The private prison industry notes, correctly, that the real issue here is American immigration policy.  But the assertion that companies like CCA and Geo Group have no interest in the immigration policy debate is absurd.  As a National Public Radio investigation discovered, the private prison industry leans heavily on The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  ALEC is a shadowy organization that drafts legislation for state legislators and then hosts lavish conferences where state politicians are encouraged to back these bills.  For instance, SB 1070, the controversial Arizona anti-immigration legislation, was drafted by ALEC.  While the link between ALEC and the private prison industry is difficult to document (this is a highly secretive organization), private prisons, and the anti-immigration movement that sustains them, are central to the punitive, anti-government legislative policy of this powerful legislation-drafting organization.  ALEC is the voice of the corporate world (I was going to say “corporate America”, but that phrase is becoming an anachronism), and private prisons are just one more way for private investors to feed at the government trough.  First you foment a paranoid anti-immigration panic through the dissemination of misleading propaganda; then you sell the politicians a cheap way of getting tough on immigrants.  The private prison industry doesn’t have to lean on ALEC; the industry is ALEC’s brainchild.

Private prisons are cheap because, as Krystal Gomez argues below, they cut corners on staff, medical care, maintenance, food and every other budgetary item.  Immigration prisons are heavily privatized and the consequences for inmates have been horrendous.  Gomez has interviewed scores of inmates in these prisons so she knows whereof she speaks. (more…)

A shocking report targets Operation Streamline

By Alan Bean

What is Operation Streamline, you ask.  A post from a couple of months ago described our heart-rending encounter with Streamline in a federal courtroom McAllen, Texas.   Until 2005, undocumented immigrants detained at the US-Mexico border were simply deported; now they are tried in federal court for the crime of illegal entry.  If they have crossed the border more than once, the undocumented can be prosecuted for illegal re-entry, a felony charge carrying a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.

When reformers speak of “crimmigration,” Operation Streamline heads the list of abuses.

Operation Streamline cases are clogging dockets in federal courtrooms along the border, detracting prosecutors from crimes involving massive fraud and violence.  But for the poorest members of the Latino community, the consequences of this wrongheaded policy have been devastating.

Recently, Grassroots Leadership, an immigration reform organization, released a report called Operation Streamline: Costs and Consequences that will tell you everything you need to know about the criminalization of immigration.  Not only is Operation Streamline ineffective as a deterrent, the report concludes, it is obscenely expensive and socially destructive.

In addition to draining resources and burdening the courts system, Operation Streamline imposes a devastating human cost, especially upon the Latino community. Latinos now represent more than half
of all individuals sentenced to federal prison despite making up only 16% of the total U.S. population. Increased enforcement measures also drive migrants to employ the services of professional smugglers and to attempt crossings in more obscure and dangerous areas.  As a result, immigrant fatalities along the border have become increasingly common, reaching totals more than four times those in 1995.
 Friends of Justice is designing a narrative campaign that will illuminate the abuses highlighted in the Grassroots Leadership report.  Our goal is to humanize and personalize the plight of the men and women who continue to cross and recross the border without documentation.  We will be asking who these people are, where do they come from, and why are they willing to repeatedly violate the laws of a sovereign nation?  The answers will shake you up.

Immigrants for Sale

Posted by Pierre R. Berastaín

This video is from some time ago, but its message is as powerful today as it was when it first came out.  How do prisons make money and how do anti-immigration laws ensure these private prisons’ profits?