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through the system is a mystery to most, but not to those in Congress who need to “look tough on immigration” to their constituents. According to Amnesty International, DHS locks up approximately 5,000 minors each year, most of them averaging 15 years of age. The 1996 alien detention laws have been challenged in, and modified by, the courts, but for some the victory has been Pyrrhic. Take the case of Kim Ho Ma, who legally entered the United States as a refugee from Cambodia when he was a child. At age 17 he was convicted of a gang-related shooting and served time in prison. But because he had not yet become a U.S. citizen, he went straight into immigration detention. At the time, Cambodia was not taking back its citizens as deportees, so Cambodians \(along with Mariel Cubans, after criminal convictions wound up as “lifers” in immigration detention after they had served their state or federal sentences. In a close, 5-4 decision in June 2001, the Supreme Court held such “indefinite” detention to be unlawful. Kim was free on bond. But by 2002 Cambodia started to “repatriate” its nationals, and on October 2, 2002, Kim Ho Ma was deported to Phnom Penh. A recent New York Times Sunday Magazine cover article detailed the story of these repatriations of Americanized street kids to Cambodia. n proposing reforms to the 1996 laws, Sen. Kennedy stated, “Clearly, dangerous criminals should be detained and deported. But indefinite detention must end. No public purpose is served by wasting valuable resources detaining non-dangerous individuals, many of whom have lived in the U.S. with their families for years, and established strong ties in our communities.” “Americans believe in proportionality, fair play, and due process,” he continued. “The 1996 changes offend these basic beliefs.” To date, the Congress as a whole has not had the courage to deviate from the hard line drawn in 1996. Some in government recognize the futility of trying to lock up every alien in sight. The Justice Department asked the Vera Institute of Justice, a non-profit organization based in New York, to investigate community supervision as an alternative to alien detention. Vera’s study demonstrated that: [Tlhe INS does not have to detain all noncitizens in removal proceedings to ensure high rates of appearance at immigration court hearings. Ninety-one percent of participants in the intensive program attended all required hearings in comparison to 71 percent of noncitizens released on bond or parole. These appearance rates also indicate that even without supervision, many people, particularly asylum seekers and criminal aliens, are willing to attend immigration court hearings as required without having to be detained at that stage in the process. More recently, in July 2003, 11 immigrants in Michigan were given electronto wear in lieu of detention. The pilot program will be “closely monitored,” according to one DHS official, and if successful, can be expected to spread to other cities. In the end, Congress and the voting public must decide whether or for how long the “moral panic” over aliensand the lure of profit for places like Eden, Texaswill continue to dominate over common sense and justice. Dan Kowalski is Editor-in-Chief of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin \(a tion defense attorney in solo practice in Austin. 12/19/03THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29