Immigrant families deterred from visits by private detention

Immigrants in privately-run detention facilities awaiting decisions on their deportation from the US are less likely to receive visits from their children than those in city or county jails, according to a new study.

The University of California-Irvine PhD student, Nicholas Branic and University of California-Davis assistant professor of sociology, Caitlin Patler, surveyed 462 immigrant parents held for a minimum of six months at California’s four detention centers. Three of these centers were jails and one was a for-profit private facility subcontracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They found that for those held at the private facility, 44 percent of those surveyed were almost 60 percent less likely to receive visits from their children.

Patler and Branic claim that the lack of equal access to visitation could show a troubling degree of legal inequality, which could have potentially serious consequences for those immigrants held in detention. The study, believed to be the first of its type, examines the impact on immigrant communities and on families, as more and more undocumented immigrants are held at privately-operated centers.

The researchers claim that detention is currently more like incarceration than has been the case in the past. In some ways, it is now even worse. Immigrants often have no idea how long they will be kept in detention, and are forced to fight their legal cases from behind bars with no free access to public defenders.