Monday, February 6, 2006

One more piece in the "Immigration Reform" puzzle

One of the underlying problems with the recently passed "Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005" (H.R. 4437) has always been the shear impracticality of it. Let's set aside the questions of constitutionality, infringement on basic human rights, lack of judicial checks and balances and inherent racism of HR 4437, and simply examine it from a practical point of view. The bill, as written, would appear to be totally unenforceable.

But leave it to the Bush administration to turn to a familiar "friend" to remedy that situation: Halliburton
more below the fold

The bill, in theory, calls for the arrest and possible detention of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Mandatory Detention
Under current law, individuals who arrive without documents, including asylum-seekers, are subject to mandatory detention. Again this applies mainy to those arriving at airports or by sea. 60% of detainees are held in local jails under contract to the federal government, where they are generally not segregated from the criminal population even if they are asylum-seekers and others with no criminal record.

Under this new bill, the mandatory detention policy would be extended to all non-citizens who are detained at any port of entry or anywhere “along” the border for any reason.

“Illegal Presence” and “Aggravated Felonies,”
Section 203 of HR 4437 calls for the creation of a new federal crime of “illegal presence”. As defined in the bill it includes any violation, even technical, of any immigration law or regulation. Even if the immigrant was to fall “out of status” unintentionally, or do to paperwork delays. In essence, the bill makes every immigration violation, however minor, into a federal crime. As drafted, the bill also makes the new crime of “illegal presence” an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes. This classification would have the further effect of restricting ordinary undocumented immigrants (including those with pending applications) from many forms of administrative or judicial review. Those convicted of an "aggravated felony" would be subject to indefinite detention and/or expedited removal.

Indefinite Detention
Indefinite detention currently applies to non-citizens ordered removed from the United States whose countries refuse to accept them or who have no country because they are stateless. Most often they come from countries without good relations with the United States.

HR 4437 would permit indefinite detention of an increased broad class of non-citizens, including:
  • those with a contagious disease
  • any non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony,” (see above)
  • non-citizens whose release would pose foreign policy problems
  • non-citizens charged even with very minor immigration violations who, based on secret evidence, are deemed a national security risk.


So how does the DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement plan to hold the possible millions of undocumented immigrants that HR4437 would place into the detention system? At the present time ICE runs only fifteen detention facilities throughout the continental US. Certainly if HR4437 were to pass, this small number of facilities would be overwhelmed within the first months, if not weeks of enactment.

This has always been one of the great practical stumbling blocks in this ill-conceived bill. It would take a monumental shift in ICE's capabilities to incarcerate the immigrants charged with the various new crimes as outlined in HR4437.

Thanks to Halliburton, this capability is about to grow significantly.

Halliburton Subsidiary Gets Contract to Add Temporary Immigration Detention Centers
New York Times

A spokesman for the corps, Clayton Church, said that the centers could be at unused military sites or temporary structures and that each one would hold up to 5,000 people.

"When there's a large influx of people into the United States, how are we going to feed, house and protect them?" Mr. Church asked. "That's why these kinds of contracts are there."


In recent months, the Homeland Security Department has promised to increase bed space in its detention centers to hold thousands of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. In the first quarter of the 2006 fiscal year, nearly 60 percent of the illegal immigrants apprehended from countries other than Mexico were released on their own recognizance.

Domestic security officials have promised to end the releases by increasing the number of detention beds. Last week, domestic security officials announced that they would expand detaining and swiftly deporting illegal immigrants to include those seized near the Canadian border

Advocates for immigrants said they feared that the new contract was another indication that the government planned to expand the detention of illegal immigrants, including those seeking asylum.

"It's pretty obvious that the intent of the government is to detain more and more people and to expedite their removal," said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami. .

Once again Halliburton looks to become the direct beneficiary of Republican sponsored legislation and policy.

Halliburton's involvement in HR 4437 also raises numerous questions:

As we have already seen in Iraq, KRB has not only a terrible track record in regards to billing issues and its ability to actually accomplish its missions; many of its contracts appear to be nothing short of sweetheart deals made with the DOD. Was this another example of that?

Additionally, a serious examination of Halliburton's future effect on this legislation must be watched. As it moves through the Senate will KRB's involvement place undue pressure on legislators to prevent the more draconian measures in the bill from being thoroughly debated?

Once again it looks like we're about to see policy being formulated more for the benefit of the corporations with ties deep inside the Whitehouse, rather than for the benefit of the American people. Unfortunately it looks like millions of hard working immigrants, whose only wish is to make a better life for themselves and their families, will become the next pawns in the big money games being played in Washington.

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