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DREAM Activists Infiltrate Deportation Center, Find Detainees Inconsistent With Administration Policy

Yesterday I noted that the vaunted deportation reviews promised by the Department of Homeland Security haven’t actually taken place. Some incredible youth activists in Florida set out to prove this. They intentionally got themselves placed in immigrant detention centers to uncover the others held in the facilities.

“Our organizers inside of the detention center have discovered that the Obama administration is still deporting the same people it promises not to deport,” the group said in a statement.

Beginning in June 2011, the administration ordered broader discretion in the prosecution of undocumented immigrants, with consideration to be given to age, how the person entered the country and his or her education, military service, criminal history and family circumstances. Then in June of this year, the administration extended the policy to cover undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children.

But it appears that those policies are not being applied on the ground.

In particular, the activists with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance – themselves undocumented immigrants, and thus undertaking this infiltration at great personal risk – found people in the facility who had pending applications for U visas, which is supposed to give them temporary legal status; others who were eligible for deferred action as DREAM-eligible students, under the Administration policy from June (UPDATE: Per Dara Lind, deferred action applications do not come out until August 15, so you can’t really argue that DREAM-er presence in the facility stands contrary to policy. However, the activists argue that non-criminal offenders and low-priority individuals shouldn’t be detained per the 2011 policy); and “more than 60 people with no criminal record or prior deportations who are eligible for discretion under the administration’s policy.”

Some of these detainees have been held at this facility for as much as 20 months. A year ago, their cases should have been reviewed. A couple months ago, under Administration policy, the actions against them should have been deferred. This has not happened. In fact, the facility the activists infiltrated, the Broward Transitional Center (operated by the private prison company, the GEO Group), is known as a “low-priority immigration center.” Under the various memoranda and Administration directives, there shouldn’t be any of these. Only violent criminals are supposed to be detained and deported, under the various orders. Every single detainee at this facility should be eligible for a review.

The DREAM activists’ petition to DHS and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is here. This is a brave action by activists whom the Administration claims to have helped with their immigration policy.

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David Dayen

David Dayen