Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Two West African men were ordered deported after entering the US illegally (they stowed away in a cargo ship), but ten months later, both men are still in the US, one still in detention, the other recently released under a supervised release program. Neither were deemed dangerous, neither were charged with committing any crime beyond entering the country illegally, yet both are stuck here in a bizarre kind of limbo.

From the Boston Globe:

His name is Sunday Agbata. He came to the United States as a stowaway on a ship from West Africa, on a deadly voyage that left one man crushed by a propeller and Agbata and another man subsisting on biscuits and water.

Desperate, they shouted to the crew for help and were turned over to federal authorities when they docked in Rhode Island.

Almost one year later, Agbata says he is still on a terrible journey, but this time it is through the federal immigration system. Agbata was ordered deported in July 2008 to his native Nigeria, but he says America will not let him go. ...

The 10-month detention of Agbata is raising questions about why the federal government keeps some immigrants in jail long after they have been ordered deported, according to advocates and lawyers for the immigrants.

In 2001 the Supreme Court ruled that six months is a reasonable amount of time to deport immigrants after a final decision in their case; after that period the federal government must justify their continued detention.

When asked by the Globe about the lengthy detention, one that has to be seen as unreasonable as defined by the Supreme Court, ICE officials came up with an excuse clearly pulled from their nether parts:

"He didn't cooperate with us in obtaining a travel document; he didn't provide us with enough information," said Jim Martin, deputy field office director of detention and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in New England. "We are still attempting to remove him."

But Agbata's lawyer said he has cooperated with the federal government, including providing information and contacting the Nigerian consulate to obtain the necessary papers. In February, ICE sent Agbata a letter saying it expected to deport him in the "foreseeable future," according to a copy of the letter.

So, the question remains: why is Mr. Agbata still sitting in jail?

There are a number of possibilities. One is that ICE is staffed with incompetents who haven't a clue as to how to arrange for deportation to another nation, and they are incapable of learning how to do so. Another is that ICE loses interest in people once it has secured a legal victory to add to their statistics, and they don't really care about the detained after that point. A third is that ICE officials like detaining people and do so because they can.

In the mean time, it's costing federal taxpayers $90 a day to feed and house these detainees and it's generating all sorts of unnecessary ill-will for our country throughout the world. Apparently that doesn't matter to ICE.


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