Blogs posted by the attorneys at Kuck Immigration Partners are designed to be informational. While this blog entry is meant to be informational, in all honesty, it also serves a separate selfish purpose – allowing me to vent.
For those who don’t know, the Stewart Detention Center (SDC) is a prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and is the largest immigration detention facility in the United States. Immigrants who are detained for different reasons (from driving without a license, to being encountered at the border, to more serious offenses) are shipped from all over the United States to the SDC which is in Lumpkin, Georgia. Never heard of Lumpkin, Georgia? Yeah, neither has anyone else, because Lumpkin is in the middle of nowhere. The following is just a small example of what goes on at SDC.
- · Bonds are denied by the Immigration Judges, routinely without explanation. The Judges at the Stewart Detention Center (SDC) do not give bonds except in rare cases. More likely than not, after a well-presented bond motion, the Judge will simply state that there will not be a bond in the case. When asked the reason, the Judges have been known to say “I don’t have to give you a reason. If you want to appeal my decision I will write up my decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals.” Judges know full well that appeals take around 3 months, and people are unlikely to agree to wait out the appeal while they are in a horribly run jail, and instead give up and agree to deportation. That appears to be the Judges’ plan, and that is a huge part of how they are able to maintain a 97 % deportation rate year after year (highest in the nation). In the rare case a client to agrees to stay detained while we fight the appeal, the Judges commonly react to the appeal by setting the client for a quick hearing on whatever application they might be submitting with the apparent end goal of going ahead and denying the client’s case so the bond appeal will be moot. Criminal courts grant reasonable bonds. Other immigration courts grant reasonable bonds. The Judges in SDC see the bond as a troublesome cog in their well-oiled deportation machine and treat it as such. Gotta keep those deportation numbers up…
- · Attorneys are denied visitation of clients, hassled needlessly, or made to wait exorbitant amounts of time to visit clients in unacceptable conditions. It is common-place for an attorney to be told by SDC staff they will not be able to see their client, or will have to wait several hours to see their client. This after the attorney spent three hours in their car driving to the SDC (that’s right, SDC is three hours from Atlanta – this fact alone restricts access to counsel). The staff at SDC changes its visitation policy from day to day. Sometimes they require attorneys to call ahead to schedule a visitation. Other times they will not accept call-ahead appointments and tell the attorney to just come. Not only does staff make it difficult to even get to your client, they won’t allow attorneys to bring law books or large files into the meeting, despite the fact that it is a no-contact meeting and it would be impossible to pass the book or file to the client. Recently an attorney was told that he would not be allowed to see his client because it was too late in the day, and then that he would not see his client because all of the visitation rooms were full. Suit was filed in Federal District Court, and the Judge was shocked to hear that a detainee was deprived of his right of access to counsel. Little did the Federal Judge know this is practically the norm. Even more outrageous, female attorneys have been told they will not be able to access to clients if they wear certain types of bras (not sure if CCA has a contract with Victoria’s Secret)! Also outrageous, Muslim women attorneys have been forced to remove their hijabs before being allowed access to clients! To top it off, if or when attorneys are finally granted access to clients, they are forced to speak on phones with cords so short you can barely see your client through the window while you try to balance delicately on a cheap plastic dollar store lawn chair.
This is just the tip of the iceberg at SDC. Future vent sessions will deal with the lack of adequate medical care, outbreaks of illnesses and lice, verbal abuse and mistreatment of attorneys, and judicial misconduct in confiscating attorney work product. I hope that you are shaking your heads as you read this. But more than that, I hope that by shining a small light on the crap that goes on at the SDC that others will be encouraged to stand up and fight the injustice as well.