The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

June 5, 2013

Federal legislation could steer many illegal immigrants away from detention

(Continued)

The government eventually deported him, but he later returned illegally so he could reunite with his family here.

Police arrested him again in December on a traffic offense, and he was turned over to federal immigration authorities. They ultimately released him but required him to check in with authorities weekly, stay out of trouble and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle.

Now 23, Dominguez dismissed concerns that more immigrants would abscond if they are steered away from detention centers. Fleeing, he said, could jeopardize their chances of achieving their goal: legal status in the U.S.

If not locked up, he said, immigrants like himself can work and pay taxes, helping the economy grow.

“I go to the store and buy things. I use public transportation. I know I am contributing to the economy,” said Dominguez, who was allowed to shed his ankle bracelet last month after consistently complying with the terms of his supervised release.

Other illegal immigrants have gone on to break the law in Georgia after the government released them. In September 2010, for example, federal authorities arrested 32 illegal immigrants in Georgia who had committed crimes or had absconded after judges ordered them to leave the country. Thirteen had prior criminal convictions for a variety of crimes, including re-entry after deportation, drunken driving, weapons violations, assault and disorderly conduct.

To better understand the nation’s immigration detention system, an AJC reporter and photographer toured the North Georgia Detention Center. Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America operates the center, which is housed in the former Hall County jail.

The 502-bed center houses men and women, segregating them based on their gender, their criminal histories and other criteria. It had 266 detainees on the day the AJC visited, May 16, though it averaged 378 per day last month, said Charlie Peterson, the center’s warden. Detainees come from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Most were born in Mexico.

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