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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Etowah County Detention Center, another black eye coming to Alabama

Just a heads up - another black eye is headed Alabama's way. It seems that Alabama's only ICE detention center is excess prison space ICE rent's from Etowah County, Alabama. From an article titled:
Immigrant Detainees Languish in Notorious Etowah County Detention Center.

Here's how it starts:
The Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, houses immigration detainees along with county inmates. The facility, which on any given day houses over 300 immigrants, is notorious for poor conditions. It is hours away from any immigration court or international airport , despite only housing people who have final orders of removal from the United States. Many of the detainees have been held here for months, if not years.

Etowah should be closed for two reasons. First, the facility is inappropriate for civil detention. It is a high security jail designed to hold dangerous criminals serving their jail sentences, not for civil offenders awaiting removal from the United States. Second, many of the detainees held at this facility cannot be removed from the United States, despite having been ordered removed, since they are victims of torture or persecution, or because the U.S. does not have an extradition agreement with the home country. The federal government should not ask taxpayers to foot the bill for this inhumane and unnecessary detention.
And things go downhill from there. Turns out that there was some talk of closing the ICE Facility in Etowah County last year and:
In 2010, after years of controversy around Etowah’s dreadful conditions, the Obama administration promised to move toward a more civil form of detention by building newer, better facilities located closer to detainees’ homes and families, to legal service providers and to good medical care. As a result, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) was set to terminate its contract with the facility and stop detaining immigrants there.

Realizing that the loss of the only ICE contract in Alabama would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and $5.2 million in revenue for the county, local officials went to Washington, D.C., and lobbied federal lawmakers to renew the contract. Federal officials succumbed to this pressure, and in April 2011, ICE renewed its contract with Etowah, to hold up to 325 immigrants there.
Now this report isn't from some bunch of Commie loving Democrats that nobody will ever hear from again - this is an International Group that routinely talks about some of the worst things that happens to Women Worldwide. I know that doesn't carry much water for the Republicans in the Alabama State Legislature, those Legislators hatred of civil rights for non-white folks is well know, but for the rest of the Word reports like this aren't so good.

But as they say it gets worse:
Due to the remote location of the facility, detainees do not have access to free or low-cost attorneys who can guide them through the complex requirements they must meet in order to be released after six months. Moreover, detainees cannot even be removed directly from this facility because it is not near an international airport. Although the government is ostensibly in the process of trying to deport all of the detainees held there, each detainee will need to be transferred to another facility before actually being removed from the United States.

By holding detainees in Etowah, the U.S. government is creating a purgatory-type of situation for the detainees. Officials are not releasing them using alternatives to detention programs, but they can’t effectuate their removal either. The detainees are languishing in a legal no-man’s land at taxpayer expense. The U.S. government seems to be explicitly using Etowah as a facility to hold immigrants it knows it will not be able to remove quickly, if at all, from the United States and with the full knowledge and expectation they will eventually be released, to be reunified with family here in the U.S.
So, what's the take home here? Certainly Alabama likes undocumenteds when they are in prison and profitable but when they are out minding their own business and making a living - well they ain't so welcome. I'm surprised some enterprising Republican hasn't come up with the idea of forcing these poor undocumented folks in Etowah County's Detention Center to do farm labor for free in a "work release" program. Now that really would be the best of both worlds for the Republican Legislators - a new form of legal slavery and as a side benefit they could even talk about their "darkies" once again!

Note: this was cross posted on the blog Left in Alabama.