All Things Considered, November 17, 2004 · Since Congress revamped the
nation’s immigration laws in the 1990s, the government has rounded up tens
of thousands of immigrants each year who’ve committed a crime — from
murder to offenses such as overstaying their visas — even if the offenders
had already been punished.
These immigrants have been jailed for months or years while Homeland
Security officials obtained a court order to deport them. Some have
allegedly experienced brutal and violent conditions while in detention.
In a two-part series, NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling investigates allegations that
guards have beaten up detainees and mistreated them in other ways at two
jails in New Jersey used by Homeland Security.
Zwerdling’s first report looks at the case of Hemnauth Mohabir, a native of
Guyana. In the spring of 2002, Mohabir returned to Guyana to visit his
mother, who was ill. On his way back to New York that April, an immigration
agent at Kennedy International Airport noticed Mohabir had a criminal
record: Six years earlier, he’d been convicted of possessing about $5 worth
of drugs. The judge fined him $250 for a misdemeanor and let him go.
Because of that past conviction, Mohabir was deported to Guyana and banned
from ever coming back to the United States. But before returning to his
native country, Mohabir was detained for almost two years at New Jersey’s
Passaic County Jail, where he alleges that guards taunted and beat
detainees and terrorized them with dogs. One detainee was attacked by a dog
earlier this year and sent to the hospital. Evidence obtained by NPR during
the course of a five-month-long investigation suggests Mohabir’s tale of
abuse, corroborated by other detainees, is true..