We’re all familiar with the injustice of being imprisoned by ICE: separation from family and friends; treated like a criminal, though as an ICE detainee they are being held to ensure attendance at their immigration hearing, not for a crime; no opportunities to go outside and get fresh air at Freeborn or Sherburne; housed with U.S. citizens, some of whom have been charged with committing serious crimes; jail food; no, or very slow, response to medical concerns.
Despite all of the above, some say that the toughest part is the waiting. For example, many, many people receive deportation orders from the immigration judge. As traumatic as that is, a person may ultimately begin to mentally plan for the impending deportation and begin to consider how they will survive in their birth country, where they may ultimately go to live, what they will do for employment, etc. So, they become as mentally prepared as they might become. But, if they’re from Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan or other East African countries, it may be a very long time before their deportation flight, often six months or more of waiting. Though much closer, even for people from Central or South America it could be months. All this time they’re suffering under the previously mentioned injustices. Further adding to their frustration is the fact that they often try to contact their deportation officer for an update and are unable to get one. Or they attempt to contact their lawyer and don’t receive a response.
And then there are cases when someone is granted temporary relief from deportation but has to wait months before his/her release. Recently a gentleman in Kandiyohi was granted ‘Deferral of Removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT)’. (Click here for more info. about CAT.) As such, he was able to show that it was more likely than not that he would be tortured if he were ordered removed to Eritrea. After receiving his positive CAT decision, he wasn’t released that day, the next or that week. Rather, ICE has 90 days during which they can attempt to deport him to another country, though it’s quite unlikely they’ll find one. At the end of that 90 days, if they demonstrate a possibility of finding a country, ICE can be granted another 90 days to try. In his case, thankfully, ICE didn’t request a second 90 days, but, as it was, he wasn’t told that he was going to be released until the 90th day of the 90-day period. Given it was a Sunday, he was released on Monday, the 91st day.
So, what can be worse than the trauma caused by ICE imprisonment? Not knowing how long the imprisonment will last.
Steve Kraemer, CWF Exec. Director
From the 5/15/22 CWF Newsletter