Pedro Guzman, 30, has been in immigration custody for 19 month because of two misdemeanor pot-possession charges dating from 1998, reports Medill News Service. The federal government detained 383,524 immigrants in 2009. Detaining an immigrant costs $122 a day. That’s $72,712 to detain Guzman from his arrest till a hearing May 16, when a judge will decide whether he can stay in the country.
Guzman sits in a cell in Lumpkin, Ga., more than nine hours from his family and two hours from his attorney. Revisions announced in 2009 aim to give detention facilities more federal oversight, but critics say the changes aren’t moving fast enough. The fractured network of detention facilities, often located in remote, rural towns, means that many detainees never speak to lawyers. “Unlike in the criminal system, where if someone can’t afford a lawyer they’re appointed one, in the immigration system you have a right to a lawyer but you have to find and pay for one yourself,” said Tara Tidwell Cullen of the National Immigrant Justice Center, which provides legal services and advocates for immigration policy restructuring.