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  • Blogging: 300 people in immigration detention are held in solitary confinement at any given time by Matthew Kolken

    Bloggings on Deportation and Removal

    by Matthew Kolken

    300 people in immigration detention are held in solitary confinement at any given time

    The New York Times reports that at any given time in the Nation's 50 largest immigration detention facilities there are at least 300 immigrants held in solitary confinement.  The isolation typically lasts for at least two weeks, the time where an individual is at risk to psychological trauma. The article further reports that there are approximately 35 detainees held in isolation in excess of 75 days.

    Examples of individuals put in solitary confinement included an individual that was fasting because he was observing Ramadan, and a gay immigrant held in solitary for four months for his own protection.

    As for the conditions in solitary:

    While the conditions of confinement vary, detainees in solitary are routinely kept alone for 22 to 23 hours per day, sometimes in windowless 6-foot-by-13-foot cells, according to interviews with current and former detainees and a review of case records involving more than three dozen immigrants since 2010.

    In addition, individuals held in solitary are subjected to restrictions on access to phones, and their lawyers.  Communications are often only made available in the middle of the night.  Recreation is limited to pacing in “the cage” that was described as resembling a dog kennel.

    This isn't anything new, as a report was issued last year that detailed how "egregious human rights violations" resulted from the Obama administration's widespread and arbitrary use of solitary confinement as a punitive measure against immigrant detainees.  That report found that immigrant detainees in solitary confinement are regularly subjected to excessive force, harassment, and/or abuse by corrections officers.

    This isn't the first time we have heard about immigrants being abused and tortured in immigration detention. A 2011 ACLU report also found systemic abuse of immigrants in Arizona detention centers. 

    Dating all the way back to 2009, DHS Secretary Napolitano acknowledged the reports of "chronic abuses" of immigrants in detention, which includes detainees being beaten and left to die of untreated injuries and illness. This acknowledgement was followed by a pledge from the administration to clean up the immigration detention system, and to start treating immigrants more humanely.  

    I'm confident this problem will finally be addressed in President Obama's third term.

    About The Author

    Matthew Kolken is a trial lawyer with experience in all aspects of United States Immigration Law including Immigration Courts throughout the United States, and appellate practice before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the U.S. District Courts, and U.S. Courts of Appeals. He is admitted to practice in the courts of the State of New York , the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.
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