By Stephen Manning

Immigrant detention is a labyrinth; it is a maze of interconnected facilities where the United States government has the power to detain people like cattle. A lost, confused expression crosses our collective face each time we search for a reasoned explanation as to why people are detained in a system that appears to be designed to degrade human beings and treat them like animals.

Through convoluted processes, the U.S. government has created a system whereby an individual can be questioned and arrested without probable cause and transferred from local custody to the federal jurisdiction of immigration enforcement. Unified under the acronym of ICE ACCESS, a series of programs including 287(g), Secure Communities, and the Criminal Alien Program enable ICE officers to detain and deport immigrants on a massive scale. They create a funnel, drawing people in to be detained and then deported.

But how? How can the Obama administration deport human beings at such a velocity? After a few moments of study, the Criminal Alien Program (CAP), a member of the ICE ACCESS programs, reveals its true character: here is where the power to detain meets the mechanism to detain, and therefore, deport. In CAP lives the genesis of detention, the immigration detainer, commonly called the ICE hold. Over the past three years, the numbers of detainers issued through CAP has tripled.

As this system continues to grow with more facilities being established throughout the country, breaking the detention/deportation cycle is an obvious goal for interrupting the inhumane flow of people into a system checkered by abuses. To speak with crystal clarity: the Criminal Alien Program is not actually about “criminal aliens” – that is merely a toss-off way of isolating noncitizens. Call them criminals and call them aliens and who will stand up for them? The statistics bear out the truth that 57% of the individuals picked up through CAP have no convictions. We should not be detaining members of our communities who have not committed crimes.

This presentation was designed to explicitly discuss the multi-step process through which an individual can be arrested, detained, and deported under the Criminal Alien Program, and to identify the legal weaknesses in the system as it is presently designed. As attorneys and advocates, it is our responsibility to fight for our clients’ rights. We need to focus our legal resources and our advocacy resources on challenging the government’s use of CAP in order to protect our communities.

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