Detention Policies Affecting Haitian Nationals

Gao ID: GGD-83-68 June 16, 1983

In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed certain policies and practices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) related to the detention of aliens seeking asylum in the United States, INS detention policy, the selection of detention sites, the physical and health conditions of detention facilities, and the total Government cost for the detention of Haitian immigrants.

In recent years, INS has taken into custody an increasing number of aliens attempting to enter the United States illegally. Before May 1981, INS released or paroled excludable aliens who were not considered a security risk. However, after that date, INS began to routinely detain excludable aliens for long periods. The rights of excludable aliens have been greatly enhanced in recent years by litigation. However, this litigation has resulted in the temporary suspension of exclusion hearings, thus delaying the hearing process. After a court declared that the new detention policy was null and void, INS has remedied a procedural issue concerning public notice but has remained committed to a strict detention policy. However, INS was not prepared to provide care for so many individuals for so long. Detainees at times live under severely crowded conditions without basic amenities and services. Two detention facilities are presently being used for Haitian aliens and construction of one more facility is being planned. Long-term detention of Haitians costs the Government about $49 a day per detainee, compared with costs for short-term detention which ranges from $12 to $18 per day in other INS facilities. GAO believes that INS should work to achieve better alternatives than the extremes that detention and parole now offer.

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