Thursday, August 20, 2009
August 20, 2009
Carlos Aranda was living the American dream. He is married, with a two year old child and a house in Atlanta, Georgia. His hard work has paid off and he was just recently promoted at work. Family members describe him as a good person and a hard working American who had immigrated here from Mexico for a better life. His parents and all of his other relatives also live in the United States.
On August 6, 2009 Carlos Aranda was asked to come into his probation officers office due to a paperwork problem. What Carlos Aranda did not know is that Immigration agents were waiting to take him into custody. Mr. Aranda had been on probation for a crime that he had committed in 2000 at the age of 17. He currently has no bond due to a paperwork error that allegedly was made by Douglas County law enforcement.
Mr. Aranda is not here illegally. His family states that he has a valid drivers licence, passport and social security card . He was granted residency in 1994. His residency in the United States was renewed by the United States government on January 15, 2009 and was approved until 2019. He was honest about his minor criminal record with immigration. They say that he has done things the right way and that he has paid taxes for fifteen years.
For the last two weeks Mr. Aranda has been locked up and possibly will face deportation in the near future. He is currently held at Correction Corporation of America's for profit Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. During his time at the Stewart Detention Center family members have stated that Mr. Aranda has had to deal with deplorable conditions and a very unsanitary environment. They allege that soap and other hygiene items are not readily available and that their relative has been placed in a housing unit with violent offenders who have threatened him on more than one occasion. They also state that he has become sick since being placed in the facility. Mr. Aranda has allegedly also had to endure several hours of heat outdoors with no available drinking water followed by several days without being allowed outside again. Family members are very worried about the isolation he faces in a facility located so far away from people who desperately wish to be able to at least visit with him on a regular basis. They are also concerned by the bad attitudes that they state CCA employee's have shown them during Carlos Aranda's detention at the Stewart Detention facility. The physical distance from any available legal representation and the remote location of the detention center also poses a significant problem to him being able to regularly access the legal resources and legal professionals that he urgently needs to speak with about his case.
Since his detention things have not been easy on his family. Carlos Aranda's wife, Margaret Williams, states that she is currently seeing a doctor for anxiety and emotional stress that she is under from the whole situation. The family is on the verge of losing everything that they have worked hard for. Carlos Aranda's two year old son just wants to know "Where is my daddy." For Carlos Aranda and his family the American dream has just become a nightmare.
The 270 View Internet blog hopes that by highlighting his current case the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency will quickly release Carlos Aranda so that he can rejoin his family before they suffer even more hardship. Mr. Aranda's job is currently being held by his employer but without a timely release he will be joining the ranks of the recession unemployed and his family will be facing an even worse situation. Carlos Aranda's family states that he has never missed a probation appointment and is not a flight risk. Keeping him behind bars in a possibly unsafe environment and away from his family is just wrong. Carlos Aranda is a legal American resident. At the very least he deserves to be given bond while his citizenship problems are addressed.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
By Carol E. Lee
Under fire from immigration reform supporters who say he’s not moving fast enough, President Barack Obama said Monday he expects to have a draft immigration bill in Congress by year’s end — but that lawmakers wouldn’t begin to seriously debate the issue until next year.
He acknowledged that the fight for comprehensive reform would be difficult, saying, “Am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No. . . . There are going to be demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form of pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable.”
Obama also predicted that Congress would pass his health reform bill later this year when more “sensible and reasoned arguments will emerge” — a clear reference to the increasingly heated attacks being leveled against his overhaul plan by opponents.
Obama brushed back a suggestion from a New York Times reporter that the “blows” he’s suffering in the health-care debate would weaken him too much to take on another massive legislative fight on immigration reform heading into the 2010 midterm elections.
“I anticipate we'll do just fine” in the midterms, Obama said. “And I think when all is said on health care reform, the American people are going to be glad that we acted to change an unsustainable system so that more people have coverage.”
On immigration, he added, “Those are fights that I'd have to have if my poll numbers are at 70 or if my poll numbers are at 40. That's just the nature of the U.S. immigration debate. But ultimately I think the American people want fairness.”
Immigration reform supporters have grown increasingly vocal in criticizing what some see as foot-dragging by Obama on the contentious issue — which President George W. Bush tried in his second term, only to see it fail and cause deep divisions within his own party. Obama’s comments Monday amounted to a firmer timetable than he has set down in the past and came at the end of a summit with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts here.
He spoke in similar terms about immigration and health reform, calling both a national imperative required to fix an unsustainable system. “We have a broken immigration system. Nobody denies it,” Obama said.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Corrections Corporation of America Announces Loss of Contract with the State of Alaska
Nashville, Tenn., August 7, 2009 - Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE: CXW) (CCA), the nation's largest provider of corrections management services to government agencies, announced today that it has been notified by the Alaska Department of Corrections that it was not selected in Alaska's competitive solicitation to house up to 1,000 inmates from the state of Alaska. CCA currently houses approximately 765 Alaskan inmates at its 1,596-bed Red Rock Correctional Center in Arizona. CCA currently expects that Alaska will begin transferring their inmate population out of the Red Rock facility beginning in December of 2009. The loss of these inmates does not affect CCA's recently announced 2009 earnings per share guidance.
CCA will begin marketing the available beds at the Red Rock facility to other state and federal customers. CCA also currently houses 650 inmates from the states of California, Washington and Hawaii at the Red Rock facility.
"We are very disappointed to have not been selected by the Alaska Department of Corrections, a long standing customer of ours. We will work closely with the Alaska Department of Corrections to ensure a smooth transition out of the Red Rock facility," said Damon Hininger, President and Chief Operating Officer. "Although at the present moment, we do not have another customer lined up to fill the vacant beds, these beds are located in a market that is very attractive to a variety of state and federal customers. CCA currently owns 12,180 beds in the state of Arizona, which are fully occupied, including the 765 beds currently utilized by the state of Alaska."
Friday, August 7, 2009
Today's victory against CCA goes back to when Mr. Friedman had sent a letter to CCA in April 2007 asking for information on settlements, judgments and complaints against the company. CCA had refused to turn over the information, claiming it wasn't subject to the open records law. Today the Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that private prison company Corrections Corporation of America is subject to Tennessee's open records law. The full story can be found here.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Welcome to the Immigration Debate Natchez.
The NatchezDemocrat.com story and comments can be found here.
By The Associated Press
This story can be found here.
Thursday, August 6, 2009 9:40 AM CDT
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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Homeland Security Department intends to put federal employees in charge of monitoring the treatment of detainees in the country's largest immigration detention facilities, two years after the government turned that job over to a private company.
The Obama administration plans to place 23 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at the largest detention facilities to supervise how the detention centers are managed, according to people briefed on the plan. Private contractors have been used since 2007, when they were hired to ensure impartial inspections. Before that, federal employees did the job.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement planned to announce details of the detention policy changes in a conference call with reporters Thursday.
While ICE is calling the switch to federal monitors and other changes to the detention system "major reforms," this, like the Obama administration's plan to enforce immigration law at the workplace, is not an overhaul. The new detention center plan includes a tweaking of past policies and some new positions.
The government has been criticized for its treatment of immigration detainees, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has made detention policies a top priority for her department.
ICE, which is part of Homeland Security, intends to hire a medical expert to review the health care protocols for the detention centers and give an independent review of medical complaints, according to the people briefed on the plan. They spoke only on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement explained some of the plan to immigration advocates in a conference call Wednesday evening. ICE said it plans to turn a detention center in Texas for parents and their children into a women's facility and no longer place families there, said a person who was on the call. A separate facility in Pennsylvania will continue housing families.
Shortly after Napolitano became secretary, she named Dora Schriro to advise her on detentions and arrests. Schriro headed Arizona's corrections department when Napolitano was governor of the state.
As part of its plan, the department will create another new position to be filled by Schriro: director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning.
Detention has grown in recent years, with the federal government holding more than 32,000 detainees each day. Over the last four years, the budget for keeping immigrants in custody has nearly doubled to $1.7 billion, according to ICE.
Several bills were filed last week by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to revamp the immigration detention system. The bills call for setting minimum detention standards and for the homeland security secretary to enforce laws on treatment of detainees.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
The full report the story refers to can be found here.
By Stephen Gurr
UPDATED July 31, 2009 11:09 p.m.
Attorney David Kennedy says clients of his who have been held in immigration detention centers in South Georgia and eastern Alabama routinely are denied fundamental rights.
"I have had clients who have had no access to phones for extended periods of time. I have had clients being questioned and induced into signing things they did not understand," said Kennedy, a Gainesville immigration lawyer.
"I have had clients complain they were stuck in their cells for 23 hours a day. There’s definitely a problem with immigration detention in this country."
On the eve of a new immigration detention center opening in
Gainesville, a report issued this week by National Immigration Law Center appears to validate Kennedy’s complaints.
The report, based on confidential Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents obtained in litigation, alleges there are pervasive problems throughout the country’s immigration detention facilities, many of which are operated by private contractors.
Detainees are routinely denied visitation with family members, access to legal materials and regular recreation, according to the report. Many never get an explanation of their rights while being detained, the report claims.
"The conditions are much more harsh than they ought to be," said the report’s co-author, Ranjana Natarajan. "This is a civil detention, and these folks are being treated like hardened criminals."
The Corrections Corporation of America could begin boarding immigration detainees at its new North Georgia Detention Center on Main Street as soon as next week. The site of the old county jail adjoining the Hall County Sheriff’s office underwent $4 million in renovations and is being leased from Hall County for $2 million a year. CCA operates the detention center through an agreement with ICE and the county.
This week, ICE officials did not deny the allegations contained in the report, vowing to continue to improve conditions. But Department of Homeland Security officials recently decided against creating uniform detention center standards that the National Immigration Law Center wants. ICE is supposed to conduct yearly evaluations of every detention center, but has no enforceable, binding legal rules on how inmates are treated, according to the report.
"It creates a lot of gray area," Natarajan said. "Because (detention centers) are not expected to follow the rules, they’re all over the map."
ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said agency officials "feel the NILC put together a very thoughtful report, and we will carefully review and take seriously this report, as we would any report. We are committed to continuously improving our immigration detention system."
Gonzalez noted that within 10 days of taking office, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano ordered all immigration enforcement policies to undergo a review, "including detention." In February, Napolitano appointed former Arizona Department of Corrections director Dora Schriro as a special advisor for detention and removal.
"Her position was created to focus exclusively on the significant growth in detention and detainment in the last few years," Gonzalez said.
On any given day, ICE holds about 33,000 immigration detainees in facilities across the country, and supervises another 17,000 people facing deportation through electronic monitoring and other means. The National Immigration Law Center estimates that in 2008 about 220,000 people were held in detention centers prior to deportation. The typical stay is 30 to 90 days.
The Gainesville facility operated by CCA is expected to hold about 500 low- and medium-security immigration detainees, many of them from North Carolina.
CCA spokeswoman Louise Grant referred questions on this week’s report to ICE officials, but noted that "CCA does adhere in every one of our ICE detention facilities to the detention standards set by our customer."
The company also has ICE officials on site for detainee access, Grant said.
This week’s report prompted two U.S. senators to call for a change to the system.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Thursday introduced the "Strong Standards Act," a proposed bill that would set minimum detention standards and require the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that laws concerning the treatment of detainees are enforced.
"These legislative initiatives will help reinforce what our great country has always stood for: liberty, the rule of law and basic human rights," Menendez said in a statement.
To Kennedy, anything would be an improvement.
"If we’re comparing these (detention centers) to their Turkish counterparts, they’re pretty good," Kennedy said. "But by U.S. standards, they’re pretty poor."
CCA claims to save taxpayers money but at what cost. I wonder what the emotional toll will be on these women and how it will affect them as they return to their past lives after completing their sentences. I wonder about the emotional toll on these women's families who may be hearing that there mother, wife, sister or daughter is being sexually assaulted while they are several states away and probably feel defenseless in being able to help them. I also can't help but wonder if the citizens in Hawaii will really be saving anything at all after the $50 million CCA gets a year plus the cost of settling what I am sure will be a huge number of inmate filed lawsuits on all of the alleged sexual assaults taking place in Wheelwright, Ky.
This article can be found here.
Prison company asks judge to dismiss prisoner rape suit
By Beth Musgrave - firstname.lastname@example.org
A private prison company has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit of a Kentucky woman who says she was raped while a prisoner at Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright.
The facility, run by Corrections Corporation of America, is at the center of investigations by Kentucky and Hawaii into allegations of repeated sexual assaults. The inquiries were prompted in part by the reported rape of a Hawaiian woman at the prison in June.
CCA has contracts with both states to house prisoners at Wheelwright.
In documents filed this week in federal court in Pikeville, CCA says the Kentucky woman never filed a formal grievance about the rape and therefore the civil lawsuit she filed July 2 should be dismissed.
The Herald-Leader does not generally identify people who allege sexual abuse.
The woman is suing the company, several of its officials and the Kentucky Department of Corrections for failing to prevent the rape.
Kevin Younce, a former prison guard, was convicted of second-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor, for the July 3, 2008 sexual assault of the woman in Floyd County. A bench warrant is outstanding for his arrest, according to court records. He moved to North Carolina before he was convicted.
The case of the woman from Hawaii is scheduled to be presented to the Floyd County grand jury next month, said Kentucky State Police Trooper Mike Goble.
Kentucky prison officials are investigating alleged sexual assaults at Otter Creek going back to 2006, said Lisa Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.
"These include allegations or incidents that were previously reported," she said. "We are reviewing every allegation regardless of the disposition."
Otter Creek houses 430 Kentucky inmates, according to the Kentucky Department of Corrections.
Lamb said she could not comment on the lawsuit brought by the Kentucky woman because the department has not seen it yet.
CCA said in a statement Thursday that it is cooperating with the investigations.
"CCA has a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate contact between staff and inmates and takes any such allegations seriously," said Steve Owen, a spokesman for the company, which is headquartered in Nashville. "We will support full prosecution under the law for any criminal activity detected."
The Kentucky woman, who has been moved to another facility, is suing for unspecified damages. She said that Younce woke her up, pulled her out of her cell and demanded sex. He took her into a staff bathroom where the assault occurred, court documents say.
She was later taken to the Pikeville Medical Center, where she was examined for evidence of rape, and Kentucky State Police were called.
Younce was convicted in absentia on Oct. 7, 2008, fined $500 and sentenced to one year in jail.
The federal lawsuit alleges that CCA knew of repeated sexual assault or harassment by prison staff at Wheelwright but did not do anything about it. Floyd County court records show that other prison guards have been charged with sexual assault of prisoners, including the former chaplain.
In court documents filed this week, CCA argues that the Kentucky woman never reported the sexual assault to the prison. After the July 3 rape, she filed nine grievances, but none of them involved sexual assault or Younce, the company's lawyers say.
The lawsuit should be dismissed, the company says, because, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, prisoners have to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing a claim in federal court.
The woman was convicted in May 2007 in Jefferson County for receiving stolen property, fraudulent use of a credit card and other charges, according to the Kentucky Department of Corrections Web site. It's not clear when she will be released.
Her attorney could not be reached for comment on Thursday.