Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ACLU Attorney: Cost of Detaining Immigrants High, Litigation Costs 'Remarkable'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 4:29 PM

The rise of anti-immigration legislation was the hot-button topic of discussion this afternoon at the inaugural Law and Liberty Lecture series hosted by The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho.

Tanaz Moghadam, part of the ACLU litigation team challenging Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 law imposing tight restrictions on undocumented workers and their families, led the first lecture.

“When the [Arizona] law was passed in 2010, my team at the ACLU decided to put our minds together and try to file a suit to prevent this law from going into effect,” said Moghadam.

The midday lecture included a primer of the U.S. government's role in immigration laws. According to Moghadam, the government "was working hard to further restrict" the rights of non-citizens in the United States, making it easier to deport them.

“The states are doing something in the backdrop of the increasing rigor of federal enforcement,” Moghadam said. “In fact, under the Obama administration—a Democratic administration that claims to be more favorable to immigrants—there have been record deportations in the last few years, even exceeding the Bush administration. So more people are being thrown out of the country than ever before.”

Arizona was among the first states to pass what Moghadam called an "omnibus bill" on immigration.

“Most significantly, they are starting to criminalize different conduct that relates to immigration, so they are creating new crimes that relate to immigration that the federal law never has,” said Moghadam.

In 2011, 25 states had considered similar broad sweeping omnibus laws to that of SB 1070. Only five states— Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah, ended up passing variations of Arizona’s law. All of these laws are now being challenged in the courts, in differing forms.

“The same goes with Arizona. Most of its provisions have been blocked pending this long process of judicial review,” said Mogahadam.

Concerns of those in attendance at the lecture included the logistics of anti-immigration ordinances, as well as the cost to implement and defend such laws. According to Moghadam, the litigation costs "are remarkable and the costs of detaining immigrants are even higher." She said every year nearly 400,000 people are being held just for immigration purposes.

“It is easy to vilify immigrants when things are down and there is a recession as there is now,” said Moghadam. “There is a lot of scapegoating going on, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that as the economy here has turned, it has really correlated with the rise of these laws.”

Tanaz Moghadam was the inaugural speaker at ACLU lecture series.
  • Tabitha Bower
  • Tanaz Moghadam was the inaugural speaker at the ACLU lecture series.

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