Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 5 in El Paso: Examining the Exclusion and Detention of Noncitizens

The one-week program on the enforcement of immigration law at the border (hosted by Hofstra Law School and is taught at the University of Texas in El Paso) ended this past Saturday, May 25. I didn't have the chance to blog about the last two substantive days of the program so I'm going to do so this week.
Day 5 of the program focused on examining the exclusion and detention of noncitizens. My broad goal for that day was to underscore the broad power that the U.S. government has in excluding noncitizens and the ways that the U.S. constitution imposes limits on the power of the government to detain noncitizens.
In class that morning, we heard a presentation by two U.S. consular officers who are based in Ciudad Juarez. Both officers talked about the process that noncitizens go through when they apply for visas to enter the U.S. Notably, when asked by the students what happens if the officer decides to reject the visa application, they explained that the applicant may seek a review with a supervisor or through Legal Net at the Department of State. If it appears from the reviewing supervisor that the denial of the visa application was correct, then there is no further appeal.
We also examined in class the Supreme Court cases Demore v. Kim, 538 U.S. 510 (2003), and Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001). Our discussion of the limits imposed on the power of the government to detain non-citizens who have been ordered removed (Zadvydas) as well as the ability of the government to mandatorily detain certain groups of noncitizens (Demore) provided an important context for our visit to one of the local detention centers that we visited that afternoon.
Detention Center

The person giving us a tour of the facility emphasized that the facility is not a prison but rather a detention center.  One of then asked, "If this is not a prison, then why does the center require the detainees to wear different colored uniforms?" (Here, the student was referring to the uniforms/jumpers that each detainee wears after being detained). The guide stated that the classification is done for security reasons, as explained here. Each uniform correlates with the detainee's security classification: Red (highest security); Orange (medium level security); and Blue (low-level security). One student later commented to me that she found it hard to believe that a detention center is not a prison when it looks and feels like a prison to her.


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