July in October

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

Remember July? Hotter? Long days and short nights? In July, I had two clients in immigration detention. Nice young women. Neither needed to be detained. Needed in the sense that there was any point to their detention. They were placed into detention months earlier, April. Remember April? Cooler? Shorter days and longer nights? October’s mirror image.

Both had trials set for July. The clients hated being in detention – regimentation, bars and locks, crowded, horrible food, noisy, an environment of ignorance. But April to July was not that long. Things happen.

Then July came. Both trials got canceled. Both cases got put over until October. One was canceled because a highway closed down and court started late. The other was canceled because of an H1N1 quarantine and four other reasons. Then the trials came. Both women got what they needed and were released the same day. Six months in detention. A cost to the tax payers of $100 plus dollars a day. [$30,000] Bad feelings that will last forever. Five months of harsh detention for a huddled mass striving to be free. Five months of harsh detention for someone like your little sister who made a mistake.

No one believes either of these women needed to detained. No one believes any higher cause motivates it. Mandatory detention is expensive, ineffective as a public safety policy, ineffective as a law enforcement tool, and a human rights disaster.

What could I say to the women being released? One finally to begin her life after living a past one of abject suffering and oppression. One to re-begin her life after losing everything. [Think what would happen to your job, savings, and possessions if you were locked up for five months?] This is all I could say, “2009. You didn’t miss much.– 2009 wasn’t such a great year.” Certainly not for them. November 1, 2009.


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