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"We Can Make Him Disappear": Immigration Officials Are Holding People In Secret, Unmarked Jails

In addition to publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is holding prisoners in 186 unlisted, unmarked locations, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces.

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Arulanantham's response is, alas, more than fodder for a law school hypothetical about whether intentional or unintentional rights violations are more egregious. In 2006 ICE punished several Iraqi hunger strikers in Virginia--they were protesting being unlawfully held for more than six months after agreeing to deportation--by shuffling them between a variety of different facilities, ensuring that they would not encounter lawyers or be found by loved ones. This went on from weeks to months, according to Brittney Nystrom, senior legal adviser for the National Immigration Forum. "The message was, We're going to make you disappear."

As an alternative to the system of unmarked subfield offices and unaccountable agents, consider the approach of neighborhood police precincts, where dangerous criminals are held every day and police carry out their work in full view of their neighbors. Not only can citizens watch out for strange police actions, and know where to look if a family member is missing; local accountability helps discourage misconduct. ICE agents' persistent flouting of rules and laws is abetted by their ability to scurry back to secret dens, avoiding the scrutiny and resulting inhibitions that arise when law enforcement officers develop relationships with the communities they serve.

Indeed, the jacket Kilbride wears during arrests says POLICE in large letters. Working out of a heretofore secret location -- Manhunters has no exterior shots -- one that his supervisor had requested I not reveal, gives their operation the trappings of a secret police. An attorney who had a client held in a subfield office said on background, "The president released in January a memorandum about transparency, but that's not happening. He says one thing, but we have these clandestine operations, akin to extraordinary renditions within the United States. They're misguided as to what their true mission is, and they are doing things contrary to the best interests of the country."

Jacqueline Stevens is an associate professor in the Law and Society Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is completing her second book States without Nations .