Thursday, December 10, 2009

U.S. Detention Centers (Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Greenwich Village, Manhattan)

Varick Detention Center, Greenwich Village, Manhattan.

The Federal Government runs numerous Immigration Detention Centers and other facilities for detention under the Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the United States Department of Justice and under Unites States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Many of these detention centers are located within New York City’s five boroughs. Two important detention centers have made national news after the wake of 9/11 for the mistreatment of inmates, harsh living conditions within the facility and questions on the suspension of civil rights. This has since offered the idea that such prisons act as ‘domestic Abu Ghraibs’ where the government’s judicial “state of exception” (as we have seen in Guantanamo Bay and in Giorgio Agamben’s pieces) allows for the mistreatment of inmates and the suspension of their rights. One such prison, the Metropolitan Detention Center is located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. This facility has come under harsh scrutiny from alleged and documented cases of abuse and mistreatment by the police working in the Federal Detention Center. Security camera video footage has captured mistreatment and physical abuse used against the inmates by the police.

Another facility, the Varick Detention Center may even strike chords close to home. It is physically located just a handful of blocks west of New York University’s campus in New York City’s own community of Greenwich Village. The imposing building with guards at each entrance tells a similar story. This facility, “a 250-bed dormitory style facility, which houses only adult male aliens (criminal and non-criminal),” is run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deals with anyone (United States citizen or non-citizen) that has been detained in New York City that has any sort of citizenship issue. Whether it is a person with no papers, a person who overstayed their visa, even allegations of persons with U.S. citizenship being detained, the Varick Detention Center will hold that person until the issue is resolved. Conditions within the facility have also been reported to be extremely hot in the summer. The New York State Bar Association, the State’s largest organization of lawyers has attempted to address the situation by recognizing the troubles associated with this facility. Many detainees, immigrants with little connections around the country and little awareness of institutions such as these are processed at the Varick Street facility and subsequently shipped off to another domestic detention facility away from the city, either upstate or out of state. For the detainee, this seriously complicates the process of upholding ones basic rights as an inmate: speaking to a lawyer, keeping contact with family as to inform them where the detainee is located, etc., etc. This story is all too common. What further complicates this story is how the Varick Detention Center is deeply intertwined with American Indian communities in the United States today. The Varick Street Detention Center is run and operated by the U.S. government but under contract with a wholly-owned, for profit, subsidiary of Ahtna, Incorporated (one of the thirteen Alaskan Native Regional Corporations). Ahtna, Incoprorated was established by Congress under terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971.

- Lilly Padia and Michael Charles Staab

Work Cited:

Devon A. Corneal, On the Way to Grandmother’s House: Is U.S.

Immigration Policy More Dangerous Than the Big Bad Wolf for Unaccompanied Juvenile Aliens?, 109 PENN ST. L. REV. 609, 646 n.212 (2004)

Sharon Finkel, Voice of Justice: Promoting Fairness Through Appointed Counsel for

Immigrant Children, 17 N.Y.L. SCH. J. HUM. RTS. 1105 (2001).

Mark T. Fennell, Preserving Process in The Wake of Policy: The Need for

Appointed Counsel in Immigration Removal Proceedings, 23 NOTRE DAME J.L. ETHICS &

PUB. POL’Y 261, 287–88 (2009)

Beth J. Werlin, Note, Renewing the Call: Immigrants’

Right to Appointed Counsel in Deportation Proceedings, 20 B.C. THIRD WORLD L.J. 393,

393–94 (2000)


Donald Kerwin, Revisiting the Need for Appointed Counsel, INSIGHT

(Migration Policy Institute, Wash., D.C.), Apr. 2005

United States v. Mendoza-Lopez, 481 U.S. 828, 832 (1987); United States

v. Barraza-Duarte, 265 F. App’x 553 (9th Cir. 2008)

Cano-Merida v. INS, 311 F.3d 960, 964–65 (9th Cir. 2002)

United States v. Arrieta, 224 F.3d 1076 (9th Cir. 2000); Jacinto v. INS, 208 F.3d 725 (9th Cir.


Families for Freedom v. Napolitano, No. 08-CV-40567 (S.D.N.Y.

filed Apr. 30, 2008).



FACILITY (2009). (


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