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New Report Calls on @BarackObama’s Administration to Reduce Spending on Immigration Detention & Implement Cost-Saving Alternatives

August 25, 2010


  • Jacqueline Esposito, Detention Watch Network 202.393.1044x 223;
  • Jayashri Srikantiah, Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, 650.724.2442;

Washington,D.C.–Detention Watch Network and Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic today issued a report calling on the Obama administration to reduce the unprecedented rate of immigration detention by adopting cost-effective,community-based alternatives that have already been implemented internationally and domestically.

According to the report,pilot programs in the United States and abroad have demonstrated that community-based alternatives to detention are cheaper, more effective, and more humane than the current U.S. immigration detention system.  Specifically,the report recommends “alternatives to detention” or ATDs that rely on collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and local non-governmental organizations. The programs provide for the release of individuals from detention and ensure compliance with immigration procedures through a mixture of traditional caseworker monitoring and referral to community services.

Jacqueline Esposito, policy director at Detention Watch Network, one of the report’s authors, explained, “By ensuring that immigrants can access appropriate case management and necessary resources, such as stable housing, medical care, and legal counsel, ATD programs increase participants’ ability to prepare their immigration cases, which in turn promotes efficiency and fairness in the court process.”

The report explains that ATDs allow for the humane release of individuals who would otherwise be held for months or years in prison-like conditions while their immigration cases are pending–individuals who include survivors of torture, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, families with small children, the elderly, the gravely ill, and long-time lawful permanent residents with certain prior convictions.

“Given the proven effectiveness of ATD programs, ICE should only be able to impose physical detention if it can articulate why a person is not suitable for release or an ATD program,” said Jayashri Srikantiah, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School, who co-authored the report.

The report indicates that the current detention regime is riddled with abuses: individuals in detention experience mistreatment and neglect by detention guards; have virtually no ability to access lawyers for help with their immigration cases; wait for months and years in detention because of a clogged and inefficient immigration court system; and face incarceration far away from their families.

Although current law authorizes DHS to release immigrants outright, on bond or parole,  or release them into ATDs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)–the enforcement agency within DHS–routinely fails to do so. ICE has acknowledged an over-reliance on incarcerating immigrants in jails and prisons.

Yet as the report indicates, the success of community-based ATDs has been repeatedly demonstrated by domestic pilot programs like the Vera Appearance Assistance Project (AAP); established immigration ATD programs in several other countries, including Australia, Canada, and Belgium; and ATD programs that have been used for decades in the criminal justice context.

For a copy of the full report, please visit the Detention Watch Network’s website at or the Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic website at

In addition to its work on this report, the Detention Watch Network has launched a campaign, “Dignity, Not Detention: Preserving Human Rights and Restoring Justice, “to call for an end to detention expansion, the use of cost-saving alternatives, and the restoration of due process in the government’s enforcement of immigration laws. For more information about DWN’s campaign, visit

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a coalition of community, faith-based, immigrant and human rights service and advocacy organizations and concerned individuals working to reform the immigration detention and deportation system so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment.

The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (IRC) at Stanford Law School is committed to protecting the human rights of all non-citizens regardless of immigration status. The Clinic represents individual immigrants in removal (deportation) proceedings and also conducts multi-modal advocacy-including legislative and administrative advocacy, public education, local advocacy, and impact litigation-in partnership with immigrants’ rights organizations like DWN. Clinic students Stephen Dekovich, Michelle Parris, Michelle Reaves, and Jessica Spradling were instrumental in the drafting of this report.

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