Detention center exposes flaws in system

The New York Times reports on a detention center in New York City that processes about 11,000 men each year.

“Immigration and Customs Enforcement considers the access to legal services at Varick Street as a good model,” said Sean Smith, a spokesman for Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, who oversees immigration enforcement.

But the lawyers doing the work have reached a different conclusion, after finding that most detainees with a legal claim to stay in the United States are routinely transferred to more remote jails before they can be helped. The lawyers say their effort has laid bare the fundamental unfairness of a system where immigrant detainees, unlike criminal defendants, can be held without legal representation and moved from state to state without notice.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA has worked tirelessly with other members of the interfaith community to highlight gaps in religious access and pastoral care in immigration detention facilities, particularly at local county jails and privately run Contract Detention Facilities that house the vast majority of immigration detainees. Through this work, JRS/USA has been in a position to observe how access to spiritual support offered in the detainee’s own faith tradition provides great solace. The very presence of quality pastoral care brings a calming influence to the detention environment.

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