February 28, 2013
Immigration advocates say detainees have been released from the North Georgia detention center, the Irwin County detention center and the Stewart detention center in south Georgia.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that hundreds of non-violent detainees and those who don’t pose a flight risk would be granted supervised release across the country. ICE says that’s due to anticipated cuts from sequestration. A Georgia ICE official could only confirm releases from the Stewart facility.
Azadeh Shahshahani with the Georgia ACLU says we can no longer afford immigration prisons for people who are neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.
“It is about 122 dollars to 164 dollars per detainee per day. Whereas if we relied on more alternatives to detention, that would cost from 30 cents to 14 dollars a day.” she says.
ICE officials confirm those figures, but say the deportation process increases from 45 days if someone is in a detention facility to as long as 2 years if the person is under supervision.
Shahshahani says even the government admits supervision rather than detention is a better way to go.
She says “The Department of Homeland Security has itself told Congress that alternatives to detention are a cost-effective alternative to secure detention of immigrants in removal proceedings. And the Department of Homeland Security’s own alternative to detention program has ensured that 94 percent of people appear for their immigration hearings.”
ICE officials say the supervision can range from requiring immigrants to wear ankle monitors to having them check in with ICE officials once a week.
11th district Georgia Congressman Phil Gingery released this statement regarding the detainee releases:
"Despite President Obama’s attempts to rewrite history, this is his sequester. And now, rather than governing, he is waging a nation-wide public relations campaign warning against his very idea. The bottom line is it’s the spending cuts—not necessarily the sequester itself—that must be implemented. House Republicans have already acted, voting twice to replace it with common-sense reforms that reduce spending while protecting the DoD from being disproportionately impacted. Identifying and eliminating wasteful or duplicative programs and services within DHS and other government agencies would cut spending without hollowing out our military. "
"For instance, according to a recent report, DHS paid for an underwater robot in a Midwest city with no major rivers or lakes nearby, a hog catcher in rural Texas and a fish tank in a small Texas town. The report also found the department has no way of tracking how grant money is spent and has not produced adequate measures to gauge what states and communities actually need. Rather than releasing detainees, government agencies must focus on cutting spending and enacting reforms in wasteful areas such as these."
9th District Congressman Doug Collins also criticized the Obama administration. He released this statement:
“Unfortunately, this type of dangerous behavior has become the status quo from President Obama. It’s disheartening to know the leader of the greatest country in the world would rather play futile political games to advance his tax and spend agenda than protect innocent Americans. These actions are a cowardly and careless; and moreover, they undermine the work the House Judiciary Committee is doing in regards to immigration reform. President Obama should be ashamed of himself for choosing political expediency over the safety of the American people.”
February 27, 2013
Azadeh Shahshahani, 34
Human Rights Lawyer, Georgia
Azadeh Shahshahani has been a prominent human rights advocate in the South for eight years. Currently the director of national security and immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter, Shahshahani, 34, remains at the forefront of several campaigns to help those who often do not have a voice within the state’s and nation’s legal framework.
Shahshahani was among those who led the fight against HB 87, a Georgia law that closely mirrors the Arizona immigration law, enabling local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone believed to have committed even a minor infraction. The law passed in 2011 but her work led to a federal court blocking other parts of the law, including a provision that makes it a crime for anyone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant. In the last year, Shahshahani has run over 15 forums in rural Georgia, teaching immigrants about their rights if they get stopped by police.- See more >>
February 19, 2013
Following the USA Today story outlining ICE tactics to boost deportation numbers, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, the ACLU Foundation of Georgia, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released a briefing guide exposing ICE headquarters directives to Georgia and North Carolina field offices to disregard public safety concerns in order to meet self-imposed deportation quota requirements.
Adelina Nicholls, executive director of GLAHR adds, "The documents are damning evidence that the checkpoints that cover our state have nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with a rogue agency and its deportation dragnet. It confirms the claims our community has been making for years about the agency’s practices. Georgia police should be stopped from any more roadside checkpoints until it is clear that they are not being used for ICE's quota."
"These revelations highlighting ICE's actual game plan of aggressively targeting undocumented community members to meet the agency's deportation quotas are deeply disturbing. It is time for the administration to stop such tactics and put an end to unjust deportations," explains Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director with the ACLU of Georgia.
Chris Newman, legal director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, says, "The Obama Administration's decision to enlist police as deportation 'force multipliers' was motivated by a self-imposed deportation quota. These documents show that ICE tactics are expanding the agency's dragnet instead of narrowing its focus. Until President Obama takes concrete steps to reign in rogue agencies within DHS, his ostensible immigration reform goals will be put in jeopardy by actions that belie his words."
The Briefing Guide is available at:
November 21, 2012
The cost of this system today is 1.7 billion dollars at taxpayer expense.
In detention, immigrants continue to be subject to punitive treatment, and are denied basic needs, such as contact with lawyers and loved ones, inadequate food and hygiene, and access to fresh air and sunlight. They continue to get injured, sick, and die without timely medical care. They continue to endure racial slurs and discriminatory treatment by prison staff, and are vulnerable to rape and assault. Since 2003, a reported 131 people have died in immigration custody.
These conditions are unacceptable and not in the spirit of the Administration’s promised reforms.
The Stewart Detention Center in Georgia in many ways exemplifies the problems with using remote, highly restrictive facilities to hold immigrants.
At Stewart, the medical and mental health care unit is understaffed, resulting in lack of adequately licensed health care professionals, delays in receiving care, and inadequate mental health care services. From April 2009 to the summer of 2012, there was no doctor at Stewart, which means the facility was without a physician for more than three years. Currently there is only one doctor and only seven nurses on staff at the 1,752-bed facility, which is a ratio of 1 nurse per 250 prisoners. As the ACLU of Georgia documented in our May 2012 report, “Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia,” immigrants reported that it can take days or even weeks for medical requests to be answered. In addition, individuals with mental disabilities are routinely placed in solitary confinement leading to further deterioration of their mental health.
One such individual is Ermis Calderon, a young man who suffers from bipolar disorder and frequent panic attacks. Before his detention at Stewart, Ermis had struggled with addiction issues and depression. Both had been effectively treated through counseling, medication, and support programmes. All that ended when he arrived at Stewart. Less than a week after his detention at Stewart, without a support system, a therapist, or his regularly prescribed medication, Ermis suffered a panic attack. While waiting for an appointment to re-visit his medication levels, Ermis sensed a panic attack coming. "I just wanted to take my clothes off so I could breathe, so I asked the guard if I could be taken back to my cell," he said. The guard refused.
As he felt his heart begin to race and his vision blur, Ermis asked if he could at least go to the restroom. Again he was denied. An attack set in. He began hitting himself in the head and striking his head against the wall. Having observed this, four guards threw him to floor, cuffed him, and held him to ground until he was still. Although no violence or threats of violence occurred during the episode, Ermis was placed in segregation and kept in segregation for almost the entire time he was detained, which was over six months. When the ACLU of Georgia spoke with Ermis in September 2011, his knuckles were bruised from punching the wall of his cell. His arms and wrists were still raw and scabbed from a recent suicide attempt.
"I feel like I'm going crazy. My medicine is always changing, and it makes me crazy. When I get upset, they just give me more medicine. I can't tell them I'm really upset or they just put me in a helmet and handcuffs for a few days. That's torture! I don't see anybody. I don't really care about anything. I just want to get out and get into a program that will help me."
Growing outrage in the community led to Friday’s vigil and march in Lumpkin, Georgia calling for the closing of the Stewart Detention Center. As part of a national campaign to expose and close the 10 worst facilities in the country, more than 200 community leaders and advocates gathered for a vigil at Lumpkin town square and then marched to the Stewart Detention Center. Among our speakers were individuals formerly detained at the Stewart Detention Center, such as Pedro Guzman, as well as family members of currently detained immigrants.
"After twenty months away from home, you lose faith, you feel worthless, this place breaks you, it is made to break your soul. The constant screaming and verbal abuse the guards inflict on the detainees is just made to break your soul and handicap you," said Pedro Guzman.
Stewart is not the exception, but the rule, in immigration detention today. It is unacceptable to be spending billions in taxpayer dollars every year to contract with corporations and counties that perpetrate human rights abuses against this vulnerable population at a time of fiscal crisis.
October 24, 2012
Atlanta, GA - October 24, 2012
Today the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) and the ACLU of Georgia filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The suit seeks public records documenting the effects of Georgia’s increasing involvement in immigration enforcement, including information that will shed light on increasing reports of racial profiling and police abuse.
The two organizations requested the records over six months ago. With representation by the ACLU of Georgia, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic, the lawsuit alleges that DHS and ICE have failed to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, and demands the release of the requested records.
Azadeh Shahshahani, counsel for the ACLU of Georgia commented, “Transparency is integral to a democratic society. Yet by withholding the records, ICE is preventing the shining of much needed light on the extent of the collaboration between this agency and local police in Georgia.”
The impact of Georgia’s experiment with immigration enforcement—through 287(g) agreements, the Secure Communities program, and HB 87—is largely unstudied. The records sought in the lawsuit will reveal who is being targeted for immigration enforcement, and how increased immigration enforcement by police is impacting public safety and civil rights.
Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director of GLAHR explained, "Immigrant communities have felt the aggression inside their own local neighborhoods since the implementation of 287(g) and the Secure Communities Program. HB87 increased the anti-immigrant climate and now overwhelming amounts of family members in our communities have been detained under minor traffic violations, as many of them are being arrested without a 'probable cause.'
Throughout the state of Georgia we are organizing to keep racial profiling out of our communities and we want to be informed about the programs that we see contributing to it. We shouldn't have to sue for transparency but if the Department of Homeland Security and ICE refuse to honor the law, we will do what it takes to shine a light on what is happening in Georgia."
The complaint can be viewed here: http://www.acluga.org/files/9413/5108/5027/GLAHR_v_ICE_Complaint.pdf
July 24, 2012
The ACLU Foundation of Georgia was joined by more than a dozen organizations today in issuing a letter to Immigration Enforcement Review Board (the Board) Chairman Benjamin J. Vinson laying out concerns with how the Board might apply the powers granted to it in the case ofMichael Dale Smith v. City of Vidalia. The letter emphasized that despite Mr. Smith’s allegations concerning Lark Industries and other businesses within the city of Vidalia, any investigation the Vidalia review panel conducts must be restricted to onlypublicentities. The letter questioned why a review panel was created to investigate Mr. Smith’s accusations against Vidalia in the first place when Board members have described his complaint as “vague” and lacking in rather important specific details such as names, dates, and locations. The letter asked for clarification as to how Mr. Smith’s complaint actually met theprima faciestandard that the Board’s rules require before a complaint may be considered by the Board. Finally, the letter requested explanation as to what authority the review panel possesses that allows it to investigate alleged violations of Georgia immigration laws that are said to have occurred before the creation of the Board, and what authority the Board possesses to potentially issue sanctions for violations that are found to have occurred prior to the Board’s creation.
“We are deeply concerned that following the Smith decision, the Board has authorized its complaint process to amount to what is essentially a fishing expedition,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director with the ACLU Foundation of Georgia.
The letter can be viewed here: http://www.acluga.org/files/2013/4313/9383/LettertoIERB7-24-2012.pdf
July 03, 2012
In late June, the ACLU delivered a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in response to the United Nations Special Rapporteur's report on detention of migrants. The report sets out the international and regional human rights legal framework applicable to the detention of migrants, including in regards to vulnerable groups with special protection needs, and discusses alternatives to detention. While the report does not discuss country-specific immigration detention policies and practices, it offers useful recommendations and urges governments to adopt a human rights-based approach.
The U.S. immigration detention system locks up tens of thousands of immigrants unnecessarily every year, exposing detainees -- including vulnerable populations such as persons with mental disabilities, asylum-seekers, women, children and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals -- to brutal and inhumane conditions of confinement at massive costs to American taxpayers... This system of mass detention persists despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledges that most immigration detainees 'have a low propensity for violence.'
The ACLU statement also highlighted the May 2012 ACLU of Georgia report titled "Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia." The report covers the four immigration detention centers in Georgia including the largest immigration detention facility in the United States, the Stewart Detention Center. Three of the four facilities are operated by corporations, including Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest owner and operator of privatized correctional and detention facilities in the U.S.
May 29, 2012
By Azadeh Shahshahani
Atlanta, GA - Over the past decade, there has been an alarming increase in the use of immigration detention in the United States. From 2001 to 2010, the number of immigrants held in immigration detention each year nearly doubled from 209,000 per year to over 363,000.
The increasing use of immigration detention is an unnecessary drain on government resources and taxpayer dollars. In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintained a record-high daily detention capacity of 34,000 beds, costing taxpayers $2bn. As of November 2011, the US government spent approximately $166 per day to hold one immigrant in detention. This is 18 times greater than the $8.88 per day it costs for more efficient, highly effective, and humane alternatives to detention.
The for-profit prison industry is the main beneficiary of the ever-expanding, unregulated immigration system in the US. Since 2001, private corporations have gained increasing control over immigration detention facilities in the US and continue to bring in record profits.
May 16, 2012
Findings raise serious concerns about violations of detainees’ human and constitutional rights
ATLANTA – The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia today released a comprehensive report on conditions of detention for immigrants in Georgia titled: “Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia.” The report covers the four immigration detention facilities in Georgia, which include the largest immigration detention center in the country, the Stewart Detention Center, as well as the North Georgia Detention Center, Irwin County Detention Center, and Atlanta City Detention Center. Three of the facilities are operated by corporations.
For purposes of this documentation project, the ACLU of Georgia interviewed 68 individuals who were detained in Georgia immigration detention facilities, as well as detainees’ family members and immigration attorneys. The ACLU of Georgia also toured detention centers in Georgia and reviewed documents obtained from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other governmental agencies.
May 01, 2012
As the first year anniversary of the signing into law of Georgia’s House Bill 87 approaches, the ACLU Foundation of Georgia today released an updated version of Frequently Asked Questions about the Georgia Racial Profiling Law. The pamphlet includes information about the various sections of law and their implementation, the legal challenge, where the law now stands, as well as the negative impact of the law on Georgia’s economy and reputation. Download the pamphlet for more information.