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Will Private Prison Corporations Profit from Longer Detentions of Asylum Seekers?

I was dismayed to read this in an AP story earlier this week:

More people seeking asylum in the U.S. could be detained and then jailed longer under a new Homeland Security Department policy for people wanting safe harbor.

The new policy applies to people placed in so-called expedited removal, a broad post-Sept. 11 category for immigrants who arrive in the U.S. seeking asylum or whose immigration paperwork is incorrect, invalid or nonexistent.

The new policy will also clearly benefit private prison corporations. Facilities here in Texas such as the CCA's T. Don Hutto family detention center, GEO's Frio County detention center, and MTC's "Tent City" facility in Raymondville, all stand to garner an increase in capacity from this rule change.

Just how many asylum-seekers are in detention in Texas or the United States? Surely, there is some government agency keeping track of such statistics, right? Well, apparently not. According to the story:

Asylum seekers are in detention in federal immigration facilities and county jails around the country. Exactly how many is unknown because ICE has not released statistics for two years, despite congressional mandates.

A total of 5,252 people claimed to have a credible fear of persecution in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Sixty-three percent of those claims were handled by ICE's asylum office in Houston, according to Homeland Security Department statistics.

In addition, putting asylum-seekers into expedited removal can put them at risk. According to the story:

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found in a 2005 study mandated by Congress that the expedited removal policy puts people with legitimate asylum claims at risk of being returned to their home countries to be persecuted or tortured.

The commission also found asylum seekers were being jailed with criminals while they waited for a decision on their claims. In a follow-up study this year, the commission said little had changed.

Before relegating more asylum seekers into the far-flung ICE detention system, maybe it would be a good idea to first make sure ICE is following reporting and conditions regulations...

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Very excellent post..