NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors say they can't meet a judge's demands they quickly deliver documents about thousands of immigrants who've been detained nationwide for months or years as their immigration statuses are reviewed.
The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara laid out the government's position to U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in a letter made public Wednesday.
The letter, dated Tuesday, came five days after the judge criticized the government, saying it had been on notice since the American Civil Liberties Union requested the documents nearly five years ago.
The ACLU eventually filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in Manhattan federal court in 2011 seeking documents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The ACLU questioned the practice of "prolonged immigration detention — for months, if not years — without adequate procedures in place to determine whether their detention is justified." It cited a dramatic increase in the number of immigration detainees in recent decades, noting they weren't serving criminal sentences but were being detained by the thousands to ensure they're available for removal from the country if removal is ordered and appeals are exhausted.
The judge said the government's continued refusal to produce documents had stymied efforts to reform a system in which thousands of immigrant detainees, some applicants for asylum, languish in immigration jails longer than six months.
He also attacked as "painstaking and riddled with further delay" the government's process for releasing documents, saying the government hasn't produced any documents since his Sept. 9 order to release documents and had at times claimed it would take seven years to produce 100 files.
The government, though, said in its letter it is "not feasible" to produce documents from more than 22,000 individual files as ordered but said it can produce a reliable sample of 385 files within 15 months, with rolling releases within eight weeks of a revised order.
In 2009, The Associated Press conducted a computer analysis of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement database obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, finding there were 32,000 immigrants from 177 countries detained, including more than 18,000 with no criminal convictions.
The analysis showed that nearly 10,000 had been in custody more than a month, that 400 of those with no criminal records had been locked up more than a year, that a dozen had been held for three years or more and that one man from China had been incarcerated more than five years. Many of the longest-term non-criminal detainees were asylum seekers.
The analysis was referenced in the ACLU lawsuit.
According to a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, immigrants are supposed to be deported or released within about six months. The steady increase in the number of immigrants held behind bars grew considerably after Congress passed a pair of laws in 1996 requiring immigrants who committed crimes be locked up for deportation. The numbers continued to rise after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and amid anti-immigrant political rhetoric.
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Reform Would Help Curb The Deficit
Immigration reform would <a href="http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-04-08/business/38371503_1_previous-immigration-bills-immigration-reform-immigration-laws" target="_blank">reduce the federal deficit by $2.5 trillion</a> over the next 10 years, according to an April analysis by the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank.
Expelling Immigrants Is Expensive
Expelling the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States would cost $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years, <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/100449802" target="_blank">according to CNBC</a>. That's because it costs the government more than $8,000 to deport each person.
Reform Would Help Fix The Social Security Problem
Immigration reform would help bolster Social Security because more legal workers would mean more people contributing payroll taxes to its trust fund, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130508/us-immigration/?utm_hp_ref=arts&ir=arts" target="_blank">according to an analysis from the Social Security administration</a>. Undocumented workers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/18/immigration-reform-social-security_n_3103500.html" target="_blank">already contribute $15 billion per year</a> to Social Security.
Immigrants Start Successful Businesses
More than <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/31/worried-about-the-economy-then-pass-immigration-reform/" target="_blank">a quarter of technology and engineering firms</a> started between 1995 and 2005 had a foreign-born owner, according to the Washington Post. One <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/22/american-companies-founded-by-immigrants_n_3116172.html#slide=2357880" target="_blank">of the founders of Yahoo!</a>, Jerry Yang, is an immigrant from Taiwan.
Reform Would Save $410 Billion Over The Next 10 Years
The immigration reform bill proposed by the "gang of eight" senators would save <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/15/immigration-reform-save-billions_n_3280145.html?utm_hp_ref=business" target="_blank"> $410 billion over the next decade</a>, according to an analysis from Gordon Gray, the director of fiscal policy at the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank. The savings would come largely from a boost in GDP resulting from undocumented immigrants gaining citizenship and in turn likely making more money.
High-Tech Companies Say Reform Would Boost Their Bottom Line
Companies like Microsoft and Google have said that immigration reform would help them by <a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2013/01/29/facebook-microsoft-back-senate.html" target="_blank">allowing for more H1B visas</a>, a special kind of visa geared toward highly-skilled immigrants. The tech giants say they can't find enough qualified people in the U.S. to fill their staffing needs.
Reform Would Boost The Wages Of Native-Born Workers
U.S.-born workers see between a 0.1 and 0.6 percent boost in wages on average with an increase in immigration, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/immigration-reform-workers_n_2583576.html" target="_blank">according to a January report from the Hamilton Project</a>, an economic policy initiative of the nonpartisan Brookings Institution. That's because immigrant workers bring skills with them that complement those of native-born workers, leading to new jobs.
Immigrants Are Entrepreneurial
Immigrants are <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/03/13/economic-case-commonsense-immigration-reform" target="_blank">more than twice as likely</a> than native-born Americans to start new businesses, according to a White House report on immigration reform.
Reform Would Boost GDP By More Than $1 Trillion Over 10 Years
Immigration reform <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/100449802" target="_blank">would boost GDP by $1.5 trillion</a> -- or about 1 percent -- over 10 years, according to an estimate from UCLA professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda cited by CNBC.
Immigrants Create Jobs
Businesses owned by immigrants <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/03/13/economic-case-commonsense-immigration-reform" target="_blank">created 4.7 million jobs</a> in the U.S. in 2007, according to a White House report on immigration reform.
Reform Would Bring In More Money Than It Costs In Benefits
Though many critics of immigration reform argue against the cost of providing increased public benefits, analysts say higher spending is not a likely consequence. A Congressional Budget Analysis of George W. Bush's 2007 immigration reform proposal found that it would cost the government $23 billion in more public services, but bring in $48 billion in revenue, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/31/worried-about-the-economy-then-pass-immigration-reform/" target="_blank">according to the Washington Post</a>.