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Long periods of detention not always related to criminal record

The Trump administration seems to enjoy portraying immigrants as habitual criminals who deserve nothing better than indefinite incarceration. Unfortunately, a review of the records pertaining to immigrants who have been held in extended detention shows that many -- if not most -- of these persons have either committed no crimes or have served whatever sentence was imposed upon them by a state criminal court. Nevertheless, they were still held in immigration detention.

One immigrant was accused of and convicted of a second-degree robbery in San Diego in 2003. He served a two-year prison sentence for that crime and was then transferred to an Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in southern California. He applied for asylum, but almost 10 years passed before he was released from immigration detention. Two detainees held in a Virginia detention center have no crimes on their records, but they have been held in detention since 2007.

Many similar records have been obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. These records indicate that many immigrants have been detained by ICE for relatively minor crimes. One Mexican man, whose most deplorable crime was drug possession, has been detained since 2012. TRAC records show that many immigrants are detained for a period of a few months, but the longer periods of detention still impose severe hardship on the families of the detained persons.

Many of the detainees do not have legal counsel, lack the means to retain a lawyer, and they cannot capably represent themselves. Anyone who has a relative that has been in extended ICE detention may wish to consult a knowledgeable immigration attorney for advice on legal methods that are available to challenge the scattershot methods used by ICE to incarcerate immigrants who may then face deportation after a criminal conviction.

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