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Interview With Azadeh Shahshahani: Georgia Immigrant Detention and the U.S. Deportation Machine

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Hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola welcome Azadeh Shahshahani, who is a legal and advocacy director for Project South. She joins the show to talk about a report she worked on called “Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Immigrant Detention Centers.”

Shahshahani addresses how asylum seekers and immigrants are denied due process and in some cases even tricked into signing papers for deportation. At Stewart Detention Center and Irwin County Detention Center, solitary confinement is used as punishment against individuals who resist the conditions of their confinement.

She talks about the water in these facilities, the rotten food served to prisoners, and the labor they are expected to perform often for very little pay or no money at all. And Shahshahani describes the programs the government operates with local police forces that load up private facilities, like Stewart, with bodies for companies to profit off the country’s deportation machine.

“Many of the currently detained immigrants actually fear persecution, torture, various types of human rights violations in their home countries, including people who fled from Central America in 2014 and 2015,” Shahshahani declares. “President [Barack] Obama actually started putting women and children in prison as a deterrent to others in Central America that were facing persecution.”

Asylum seekers are in detention while they await deportation or their asylum hearing. People may have very legitimate claims and fear torture in their countries, but because of conditions at facilities, people cannot stand conditions in these facilities for long periods. Sometimes individuals agree to go back to their home country, even though they know they may persecution upon return.

“There are various types of programs that basically lead to local police collusion with ICE,” Shahshahani adds. “287(g) is one of them. Basically, what that means is training sheriff’s deputies or local police to perform some functions of immigration agents.”

For example, if an immigrant is pulled over in Cobb County, Georgia, and does not have a driver’s license, the program kicks in and the police ask them about their immigration status. Deportation removal starts as a result of that encounter.

President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants many more 287(g) localities throughout the country. This will mean many more people are placed into deportation proceedings. He also has brought back the “Secure Communities” program so every person taken to jail is fingerprinted. The FBI shares the fingerprints with ICE, and ICE can issue a detainer for police to keep immigrants in custody for deportation. (*Here is the full report: PDF)

Later in the show, Khalek and Gosztola discuss a reaction to Max Blumenthal’s interview last week, Chelsea Manning’s upcoming release, and the firing of FBI director James Comey.

To listen to the interview, click the above player or go here.

Tom Cat Bakery truck. Photo by traveleden on Flickr.
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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."