A Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice study suggests that the detaining of non-criminals accused of immigration violations in California leads to overcrowding of prisons. This none-too-surprising conclusion may suggest that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement practice of placing arresting individuals on hold until the immigration status of those arrested is ascertained is creating a number of unintended consequences.
In Los Angeles, sheriffs now only detain individuals that have a criminal history or have been accused of a serious or violent crime. Still, in many other counties, the person arrested remains on hold even after only having been arrested for traffic or other minor offenses.
In a two-and-a-half-year period, ICE placed 71,781 holds upon individuals arrested in California who had no known criminal history. However, there has been a reduction in the number of holds since a Supreme Court order was put in place ordering prisons to reduce populations and thus placing more individuals convicted of committing felons instead into county jails. This in effect placed immigrants with no criminal records side-by-side with hardened prisoners.
Obviously, there is an argument for deportation defense attorneys representing undocumented immigrants arrested that the detaining of immigrants in this manner is unjust. Making this argument clear for the courts to understand, however, is not always as easy as it may sound. Attorneys that have witnessed the net effect of these holdings first hand and understand what immigrants have experienced are more likely to make that argument seem compelling. We hope at some point that public officials get the picture that good people are being hurt by being detained for no other reason than being undocumented immigrants. These are people here to work hard, make a living and support their families.
Source: Southern California Public Radio, “Report: Releasing undocumented immigrants could help relieve Calif.’s jail overcrowding,” Rina Palta, Aug. 5, 2013