International Herald Tribune Editorial - Domestic Guantánamos
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 27, 2007
Toughness is the watchword in immigration policy these days. When you combine the new toughness with same-old bureaucratic indolence and ineptitude, you get a situation like that described by Nina Bernstein of The New York Times in Wednesday's IHT. She wrote about how the boom in immigration detention - the nation's fastest-growing form of incarceration - ensnares people for dubious reasons, denies them access to medicine and lawyers and sometimes holds them until they die.
Sixty-two immigrants have died since 2004 while being held in a secretive detention system, a patchwork of federal centers, private prisons and local jails. Advocacy groups and lawyers say that the system not only denies detainees the most basic rights but also lacks the oversight and regulations that apply to federal prisons. Instead of fixing this broken system, the Senate bill that is lumbering toward final passage - after surviving a crucial procedural vote on Tuesday - is overloaded with provisions that will make it even harsher and more unfair.
One of the worst amendments would impose mandatory detention of all people who overstay their visas. It's a huge overreach that threatens to swamp the detention system, filling already-strapped prisons at great expense and inevitably leading to more abuses and deaths.
Non-citizens are subject to the laws of the United States and are being deported if they do bad things. But this doesn't mean that America must detain or deport everybody, or relinquish basic decency or even basic sense to achieve some imagined ideal of toughness.