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Immigration prisons are overcrowded: 70% of illegal immigrants have no criminal record

Almost 700 days have passed since Bakhodir Madzhitov was sent to an immigration prison in the United States. He had never been charged with crimes before, but still he received an order for deportation. Writes about it The Washington Post.

Фото: Depositphotos

Majitov, an 38-year-old Uzbek citizen and father of three US citizens, received a final deportation order after his applications for legal immigration were rejected. He is one of approximately 50 000 people imprisoned in the 2019 year by the US Immigration and Customs Control (ICE). This is the largest number of foreigners held in immigration custody in US history.

Most of these detainees, like Majitov, are people who had no previous convictions.

According to the latest 70 data, percent of prisoners had no previous convictions. The US government has determined that more than 14 000 people are justifiably afraid of persecution or torture in the event of deportation.

Although US President Donald Trump has made the fight against immigration a central point of his first term, his administration is far behind the pace of deportation of President Barack Obama. Obama, whom immigrant attorneys once called the “chief deportee,” deported 409 849 people only in the 2012 year. Trump, who promised to deport “millions” of immigrants, has not yet surpassed 260 000 deportations in one year.

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And while Obama deported 1,18 million people in his first three years in power, Trump deported less than 800 000 people.

The agency acknowledged that the total number of deportations was reduced, explaining this by a decrease in the number of illegal immigrants detained at the border, and suggested that the "reinforcing deterrent effect of ICE" led to changes.

Administration officials in 2019 also noted that Mexican citizens, who are easier to deport than Central Americans due to U.S. immigration laws, also account for a much larger proportion of migrants detained along the US-Mexican border during the Obama presidency.

ICE also said that the number of inmates is higher than the ICE envisaged. As a result, the Citizenship Service is forced to release some immigrants while they await decisions on their cases. “This creates an additional attraction, and attracts more foreigners to the United States and poses a threat to public safety,” said ICE spokesman Brian Cox. - The increase in the number of detainees at ICE this year was directly related to the border crisis. About 75 percent of ICE registrations in the 2019 fiscal year were obtained directly from the border. ”

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Immigrant lawyers say the prison cells are full because the administration uses harsh immigration tactics as a deterrent.

The ICE also keeps people longer: currently, not criminals spend in prison immigrants an average of 60 days, almost twice as long as an average of 10 years ago, and 11 days longer than convicted criminals, according to state statistics.

“ICE has kind of announced an open door season for immigrants,” said Michael Tan, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant Rights Project. “Thus, people who, under the previous administration, would have had the right to be released, are in custody.”

ICE officials say they enforce a series of laws created by Congress and that the agency is working to remove dangerous criminals from the streets. At a White House briefing in October, ICE Acting Director Matthew Albens spoke of agents who “unnecessarily endanger themselves” daily to take out foreign nationals that could harm US citizens.

Most of those in immigration detention are neither convicted criminals nor saints. These are people who have expired their visas or whose applications for asylum have not been approved. These are people who tried their best to navigate in a complex immigration system, or who never tried at all, or who made critical mistakes along the way. According to advocates and researchers, they are usually poor, unhappy and do not have a lawyer.

About 68 percent previously had no criminal record. According to the deportation agency, one of the most common criminal charges is being in the United States illegally.

Cox said all ICE detainees are "evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on a combination of their circumstances." According to him, the agency released 50 percent more people in the fiscal 2019 year than the previous year.

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Low priority for deportation

Madzhitov was born in 1981 in a family of musicians in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), who was then part of the Soviet Union. His father taught him to play the Karnay, a long, horn-like instrument, and he joined the ensemble of traditional musicians.

The family was religious, and in 2005, as a young man, Majitov joined thousands of other people in a massive protest against the brutal regime of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who was known for his persecution of political dissidents and pious people. Government forces fired on the crowd, killing hundreds of people, and they arrested dozens of others, including Madzhitov. A few weeks after his release from prison, Majitov decided to leave Uzbekistan.

A music festival in Austin a few months later provided him with such an opportunity. Majits and a dozen other folk musicians landed there in 2006 on temporary C-3 class visas for artists.

He came from the festival to live with friends - other Uzbek immigrants - in Kissimmee, Florida, and found work at a Disney hotel, later applying for asylum.

His application was rejected, so Majitov appealed against it. When the appeal was dismissed, he appealed against this as well, but his case came up against a dense bureaucracy, like hundreds of thousands of other cases.

In 2011, Majitov received a final deportation order. However, since there was no criminal conduct in his protocol, the Obama administration did not consider his deportation a priority.

Ten years after Majitov’s arrival, President Trump came to power with a promise to deport “criminal illegal immigrants”, murderers, rapists and gang members who, according to Trump, played with the immigration system.

Majitov was taken into custody in the 2017 year.

“My family and I have never done anything wrong,” Majitov said in a telephone interview from the Etowa County Detention Center in Alabama, where he is being held, a thousand miles from his family in Connecticut. “That's why we decided to stay in this country because of freedom.”

After almost three years of work, Trump fulfilled his promise. Between 1 October 2018 and until the end of September, the administration initiated more than 419 000 deportation procedures, more than ever, at least for 25 years, according to government statistics compiled by the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Center.

Unlike Obama, deporting migrants was more difficult. Many of those who cross the southern border have applied for asylum, which entitles them to a certain degree of due process in the immigration court system.

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Immigrant lawyers believe that the system is overloaded because of the administration’s desire to deport, although in many cases it lacks the resources or legal status to do so.

“The Obama administration, because it had enforcement priorities, was able to make deportation easier,” said Sofia Genovese, a lawyer for the South Poor Law Center, Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. - The Trump administration makes it difficult for people to obtain visas or legal status, and at the same time, their priority for deportation is every illegal. Because of this, they clog the system. "

According to ICE attorneys, most serious criminals subject to deportation end up in the ICE through the criminal justice system. Convicted murderers or drug offenders are sentenced in state or federal prisons and then transferred to ICE custody.

“In Georgia, lawyers say they have noticed a rise in the number of immigrants who have no criminal record but have been detained by ICE for violations such as driving without a license or insurance. Among them are victims of domestic violence and speakers of indigenous languages ​​of Central America, Genovese said. - It was really difficult to get them legal representation. Their cases are not reviewed in court. And many of them just give up. ”

In 2018, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Ansley Damus, a Haitian ethics professor who sought asylum but was detained at the ICE for two years, despite not having a criminal record. US District Judge James Boasburg admitted that such people would usually be “overwhelmingly released,” and forbade the five ICE field offices to refuse parole without an individual determination that a person is a public danger.

“They are all fighting for their cause”

The US government may have good reason to suspect Majitov, but officials declined to say what they were.

According to federal court applications that do not mention Majitov, his wife’s brother, also an Uzbek immigrant, traveled to Syria in 2013 to join Al-Nusra Front, an extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda. Saidjon Mamadzhonov was killed shortly afterwards. And later, the FBI accused Majitov’s other son-in-law Sidikjon Mamadzhonov of hiding what he knew about Saidjon’s death.

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But no one ever accused Madzhitov or his wife Madina Mamadzhonov of misconduct.

The couple settled in Windsor (Connecticut), where Madzhitov worked as a house nurse, and Mamadzhonova gave birth to two boys.

In the yard of the Majit family he planted a vegetable garden - tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, also a few apple trees. On Fridays, they went to the mosque together, and on weekends went to the park to buy pizza or Chinese food.

“I always worked with my lawyer, wherever I lived - I always notified DHS where I lived, and they always gave me permission to work,” said Madzhitov.

“We were a very happy couple,” Mamadzhonova said. "He was a very affectionate, very kind and caring father."

31 October 2017 another Uzbek immigrant who claimed to have been recruited by an Islamic State terrorist group killed eight people.

A few weeks later, law enforcement officers came to Madzhitov’s house in search of information about his son-in-law, who died in Syria three years ago. The couple said they have no data. A month later, an ICE appeared on a cold December morning and arrested Majitov because he was ordered to be deported.

Mamadzhonova said her husband was still in his pajamas when ICE asked her to take the identity papers from the bedroom. “When I returned, he was handcuffed,” said Mamadzhonova, who was her third child at the time, 39 weeks pregnant. - He cried".

According to the ICE, there was no criminal record in Majitov’s case, and he was not labeled as a “suspected terrorist.”

He is still in custody

ICE says Majitov’s crime is his inability to leave the United States after receiving a final deportation order, and that the agency is authorized to continue to hold him because he refused to board the flight for deportation in June 2019.

The Etova County Detention Center, where Majitov is held, is known among immigration lawyers as a facility for people whose deportation ICE wants to delay for a long time. There Majitov is one of about 120 people in the unit.

“They are all from different countries, from Africa, from Asia, from different religions. Most of them - for example 90 percent - have families in this country. Therefore, they all fight for their cause, ”he said. - Every day I pray to God. Every day I am afraid that they will try to deport me. I have nightmares every day. "

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