According to a column in the Minnesota Daily, the number of asylum seekers who are detained by the U.S. government has increased dramatically in the last 10 years. I have some questions about the statistics cited in the article, which states:
Ten years ago, the number of detained asylum seekers in the United States was 10,000. By 2009, the number had reached 400,000, according to Michele Garnett McKenzie, legal counsel for the Advocates for Human Rights…. Why the number has reached such a height is difficult for experts to explain. However, they do tend to hold responsible the existing “flawed U.S. policies that have led to the extended detention of asylum seekers….”
The 400,000 figure likely represents all detained immigrants, not just detained asylum seekers. Detention Watch Network, (“DWN”) which tracks detained immigrants, states that 440,000 aliens were detained at the end of 2009, three times as many as were detained 10 years ago. A 2009 report from Human Rights First indicates that there are about 10,000 new asylum seekers detained each year. A link to that report is available here.
The figures indicate a significant increase in the number of detained aliens. According to ICE, “Detention and removal of illegal aliens is a priority of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).” Information on many of the various detention facilities is available on the ICE website.
Conditions in the various detention facilities vary. The ACLU has studied conditions in Massachusetts, and has issued a report: Detention and Deportation in the Age of ICE. Documented problems include inadequate medical care, harassment, and overcrowding. According to DWN, since 2003, “there have been at least 90 reported deaths in immigration detention.” “Many of these deaths have been caused by a lack of timely and thorough medical care, and nearly one fifth of them have been suicides.” Mental health concerns would be particularly acute for detained asylum seekers. The recently introduced Refugee Protection Act would help to alleviate some of the problems faced by detained asylum seekers.