CLINIC reports relates stories, facts, figures
By ARTHUR JONES
Documents provided by the Catholic Legal Immigrant Network,
sometimes known as CLINIC, describe the plight of immigrants, refugees,
detainees and asylum seekers in a series of four recent reports. Excerpts
- One in five U.S. residents is foreign-born.
- 3.5 million family members seeking to join U.S. residents
languish in backlogs of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
- 41 percent of foreign-born U.S. households get by on less than
125 percent of the household income listed in federal poverty guidelines, yet
125 percent is the income level demanded before the families can bring in
- 10 percent of all U.S. children live in mixed
status households. In such households, one parent might be a legal
resident or citizen, another parent might be undocumented, while 75 percent of
the children themselves are citizens. One consequence of the 1996 Immigration
Act is that these families are being ripped apart.
- In 1999 more than 177,000 immigrants and refugees were ordered
out of the United States, many with lawful resident spouses and children. A
further 72,000 departed voluntarily, meaning that they were
threatened with deportation if they did not leave. In 1998, the INS detained
153,000 persons under mandatory detention laws. On any given day, about 20,000
immigrants and refugees are in U.S. immigration service detention centers. The
figure has more than doubled in four years
- Roughly 6 million undocumented persons live in the United
The Catholic networks reports provide the following
information about detention centers operated by the U.S. Immigration and
- Overcrowding, lack of privacy and despair have become endemic
throughout the system.
- The immigration service warehouses detainees in remote
locations, jailed with criminals, bereft of pastoral and social services,
interpreters and access to attorneys.
- Thousands face long-term detention in facilities designed for
- Jailers fail to respect dietary restrictions and to provide
culturally appropriate foods.
- Jailers place severe restrictions on visits by family
- Immigrants often abandon their legal claims to admission to the
United States simply to avoid further detention.
- The U.S. immigration service regularly transfers detainees
without reference to attorney-client relationship or other support
- Jailers use segregation punitively and often for transgressions
that arise from language difficulties or mental illness.
- Immigrants in civil custody face all the privations, inhumanity
and violence of prison.
- Locked up in a hodgepodge of service processing
centers, for-profit prisons, federal prisons and local jails, the growing
population of civil detainees includes unaccompanied children -- children
separated from parents in custody elsewhere in the United States. Spouses are
deliberately housed separately.
- The 1996 Immigration Act, states the Catholic network,
has already caused untold suffering for thousands of persons, with no end
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service deserves
abundant criticism for failure to exercise its discretion to release the
immigrants it can under the agencys operating code, and for its
unconscionable failure to develop low-cost alternatives to incarceration
that are permitted under the U.S. regulations.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have five years
lawful permanent residence (three if they have a U.S. citizen spouse), have
good moral character, be literate in basic English, pass a U.S history test and
take an oath of allegiance to the United States.
Traditionally, once citizenship has been obtained, it has
been virtually inviolate.
- 1996 regulations allow the Immigration and
Naturalization Service to conduct denaturalization proceedings. Previously only
a federal court had the power to strip citizens of citizenship. No recent
development has done more to devalue citizenship than this, states the
Catholic Legal Immigrant Network.
- Naturalization processes take two to three years in
many INS offices.
- INS improperly denies naturalization applications --
251 percent more denials in the first six months of 1999 than in 1998.
- Local INS district officials are free to administer the
naturalization test as they see fit without oversight from INS
- After INS raised naturalization application fees from
$95 to $225, filings declined by more than 50 percent.
National Catholic Reporter, September 29,