Immigrant Incarceration

More then 2000 men, women and children are behind bars awaiting deportation, appealing it, or trying to gain asylum. Some have been their for years with little or no legal representation. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports on a Houston City Council member who says the system must change

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Gordon Quan is a partner in a law firm that handles only immigration cases. He says the immigration system is broken and that too many people are locked up for a disproportionate amount of time for the laws they've violated or their efforts to seek asylum. Quan thinks judges need more discretion in granting wavers.

Quan says he knows judges who have resigned from the bench because they feel immigration laws have become too oppressive. Last week he addressed a small gathering of students and faculty at the South Texas College of Law before a photo exhibit called "American Justice Through Immigrants Eyes." Among the pictures is a man who fled Iraq but whose asylum was denied. As he waited deportation back to Iraq an attorney came to his aide won him asylum, but not before he spent more then two years in an American prison. There is a distraught Pakistani woman whose asylum plea was denied. She waited in prison to be deported believing she would be killed by her family upon her return for violating their moral beliefs. There is a group of young Asian men, most brought here as children who only know American as home and who speak only English, languishing in prison awaiting deportation to a country foreign to them because they broke the law here.

Quan says this treatment of immigrants has effects the reach farther then the individual cases.

Quan says his office has been contacted about the lack of workers needed to rebuild after the destruction of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, meaning work will take longer and cost more. Quan says in addition to hurting immigrants we are hurting ourselves.

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