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Louisiana’s private jails are now being filled with immigrants

Louisiana once had the dubious distinction of being the number one state in the nation for incarceration. A pack of criminal justice reform bills signed in 2017 helped turn things around.

However, that meant that a lot of privately owned and operated, for-profit prisons in Louisiana suddenly started having empty beds. That was a problem for them.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had a solution. ICE has started detaining immigrants who are suspected of violating immigration laws in three new for-profit jails around the state. Louisiana is quickly on track to having more immigrant detainees than Texas. Soon, only California is likely to still have more immigrants sitting in jail cells than Louisiana.

This is a serious problem for the immigrants who get sent to Louisiana. Rural Louisiana isn’t known for its immigrant population — so there are fewer attorneys with the experience and skills that immigrants need to fight detention, unlawful deportation or seek asylum. Judges in the area are also less familiar with immigration law.

Further, the New Orlean’s ICE office — which controls the entire state’s system of detention — historically has denied almost all requests for parole by immigrant detainees. That means those being held in prisons have to manage to assemble their case documents and try to fight deportation from their cells — which isn’t exactly an easy task. It’s even worse when the immigrant has been shuffled to Louisiana from some other state, far from relatives who might be able to help.

The judges in Louisiana have a reputation for being anti-immigrant. One judge denied every claim for asylum she heard during a four-year period.

Crossing the border into the United States is increasingly fraught with peril for immigrants. Getting pushed over the border into Louisiana seems to make the situation even worse — and may be a strategic move on the part of an administration that is anxious to deport as many immigrants as possible.

If someone you know is seeking asylum or has been detained by ICE, seek legal advice immediately.