ACLU Report on immigrant detention in Massachusetts

On December 10, 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts released a report titled “Detention and Deportation in the age of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).” The report is quite damning. Although never having committed a crime, over 800 immigrants and asylum-seekers are held in jails or detention facilities throughout Massachusetts, never knowing when they have hearing, or if they will be deported.

The report goes further, tracking 40 such detained individuals through the system and offering many personal stories documenting the abuses committed by Immigration Officials. For example, the ICE transfers people in order to silence complaints; relatives and lawyers are often denied information on their whereabouts. Due process is consistently denied; detainees are held for long periods of time–up to five years in some cases–with the average time being 11 months. Jails are overcrowded.; medical services are insufficient. There are reports of racial slurs, threats, and physical force being used during the deportation process. Language rights are consistently denied, and there are reports of officials putting thumb prints of the detainees on papers they could not read.

For someone working at the University of Massachusetts responsible for training translators and interpreters, I am particularly outraged. This is a liberal state, yet are jails are packed with immigrants being denied hearings and language rights.  Sometimes we in the ivory towers need to get out and do something. Letters to newspaper editors and state and national representatives are certainly advisable.

For more information, please see the executive summary. For those who wish to protest, please see the action alert. The report was released on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, which recognizes the inherent dignity and equal rights of all members of the human race.

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