Every day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, detains 10,000 immigrants with no criminal records and sometimes deep ties to the U.S., holding them for weeks or months in jails where they have fewer rights than criminals and little access to the outside world, the Boston Globe reports in the second of a series. It is a system that separates parents from young children, locks away the elderly during their twilight years, and sometimes puts the sick at great risk. The same agency has released 8,500 criminals — including 201 murderers — to the streets over four years because their home countries wouldn’t take them back. Such inconsistencies fester in a fast-growing detention system that provides little information about people it arrests. ICE’s detention centers has quadrupled in size since 1995, but ICE doesn’t release the names of detainees, purportedly to protect their privacy.
The information that ICE officials release, such as the calculation that detainees typically remain locked up less than a month, masks painful individual stories. On one day last January, nearly 3,000 immigrants had been locked up for more than six months — and close to 900 for more than a year — while they went through the deportation process. A Texas father disappeared for four days into the detention system after a call to tell his family he had been arrested by border agents on the way home from work one night earlier this year. Only after a Globe reporter began asking questions about Jesus Tovar’s whereabouts did the family learn that he had been shuffled from jail to jail and pressured to accept deportation back to his native Mexico.