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Mexicans on Ice

Submitted by on August 26, 2015 – 2:47 pm

(Reblogged from Buzzfeed News)

BuzzFeed News has found stark disparities in how the government uses its detention authority in immigration cases, with Mexicans facing far harsher treatment than immigrants from any other country.

Federal law permits the government to lock up immigrants facing deportation hearings if they pose a flight risk or danger to society. According to a BuzzFeed News analysis of a vast federal database of deportation cases, the first analysis of its kind in the nation, three-quarters of all Mexicans facing deportation on noncriminal grounds were placed in detention centers. For Guatemalans, the next most frequently detained group, the rate was 61%. For China and Cuba, longtime adversaries of the United States, the rates were 19% and 16%.

“These are people who haven’t been charged with a crime being held in jail-like settings with very little due process,” said Marc Rosenblum, an expert on U.S. immigration. Being detained makes it much harder for an immigrant to find a lawyer and mount an adequate defense against deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the division of the Department of Homeland Security that determines whether to incarcerate immigrants awaiting deportation hearings, declined to comment on BuzzFeed News’ findings.

It is not clear why Mexicans facing deportation get incarcerated at such high rates compared with other nationalities. Excluding Mexican immigrants, only 39% of cases analyzed by BuzzFeed News resulted in incarceration.

There is no publicly stated policy mandating tougher treatment for Mexicans. However, the discrepancy is so vast that several experts told BuzzFeed News the figures suggest a system-wide bias against Mexicans.

Restricting the flow of unauthorized immigration from Mexico — which is far greater than that from any other country — has for decades been the primary focus of U.S. immigration policy. One way the federal government has tried to meet that goal, according to testimony in a recent lawsuit, is by using detention to deter other undocumented immigrants from crossing the border. In a recent opinion in that lawsuit, a federal judge wrote, based on the government’s own admissions, that his court “is satisfied that ICE has a policy of taking deterrence of mass migration into account in making custody determinations.”

Some legal experts say that approach places federal immigration policy at odds with the law. In February, the judge in the above lawsuit ruled that government could not use deterrence to justify jailing Central American families. That ruling was based in part on a Supreme Court decision from 2002 that civil detention cannot be used for “retribution or general deterrence.” As a result, said Peter Markowitz, director of the immigration clinic at Yeshiva University’s law school, the high rate of detention for Mexican immigrants “raises serious questions about whether detention policy is being used illegally to deter immigration from certain regions.”

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