More than 10,000 parents of U.S. citizens are likely detained by federal authorities in California each year, according to a new report from nonprofit group Human Rights Watch. The finding stems from data collected between 2012 and 2016 and predates President Trump and his vow to deport millions of people in the United States illegally.
Most of the detainees were suspected of being in the country illegally, according to the report. Others were “lawful residents” with low-level criminal histories. The report comes with a warning to California officials to shore up their so-called sanctuary policies in the wake of Trump's new deportation initiative.
The report notes that federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), don't always track whether a suspect has children. Researchers looked at nearly 300,000 detentions in the Golden State and applied a fertility rate of 42 percent to come up with its figure of 10,000 or more parental detainees per year. Those detainees, according to the organization's estimate, “had U.S. citizen children.”
More than half the people tracked in the report (55 percent) were ultimately deported. So far under Trump, “deportations are down, but interior detentions are up,” says Grace Meng, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in the United States. Those detainees, captured during their daily routines, are more likely to be settled and have American-born children, she says. “They're not recent border crossers,” she says, “so they are more likely to be parents.”
California has the second highest number of immigration detainees, according to Human Rights Watch; Texas has the most. The California facility with the most detainees is in Adelanto and serves Los Angeles, Meng says. Compared to an average U.S. daily population of 4,594 detainees in 2015, ICE's Adelanto Detention Facility had 1,476 detainees, more than double any other California site, including the Otay Mesa Detention Facility (with 678 daily inmates) at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego.
Meng says a side effect of the facilities' remote locations is that detainees have a harder time finding legal representation. The report recommends reforms, such as California legislation that would create a $15 million fund to pay for attorneys for detainees and a bill that would require local jails holding detainees temporarily to provide access to legal and medical services.
“The Trump administration has zero interest in detention reform,” Meng says. “States have the power to protect people within their boundaries. We would hope not only California passes protections but that other states see California as an example of how to stand up for detainees.”
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