Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards said he and others have worked hard to lower the state's ranking as the nation's highest incarceration state. About a year after making such comments, the governor's goals were accomplished. While there are now fewer people behind bars for criminal offenses, at least three new immigration detention facilities have opened throughout the state, thus leading to projections that there will soon be more immigrant detainees housed here than any other state except for one.
Many immigrant advocates say that when immigrants are housed in rural detention facilities like those in Louisiana, it becomes more difficult for them to obtain asylum. All of these detention centers in this state are overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in New Orleans. Most immigration judges sitting in Louisiana reportedly deny the majority of asylum requests that come before them in court.
The three new detention facilities are privately owned. They are basically for-profit jails that many people say do their best to keep occupancies high and operation costs low. One immigrant advocate said those who worked to reduce Louisiana's jail population did not expect to see the immigration detention population increase as a consequence.
In a 14-month period, there were 2,700 fewer prison inmates but 2,800 new immigrant detainees in Louisiana. Jail operators are apparently making far more profit off ICE than they were from the state. As immigration detention continues to rise in this state and others, it is crucial for detainees and their families to know where to seek support if a legal complication arises. An experienced immigration law attorney is great asset to have on-hand, especially when trying to overcome a legal status problem.