Detention, Democracy & Due Process Project

Holding the U.S. Government Accountable for Human Rights

The Detention, Democracy & Due Process (D3P) Project works to repair failures in the U.S. immigration system and uphold the due process protections of immigrants in the United States. Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) seeks to use law as an instrument for change, arguing landmark cases before the U.S. Courts of Appeals and advocating with members of Congress and high-level officials of the Obama administration.

Systemic reform in the immigration system is urgently needed in a political environment that favors harsh enforcement and arbitrary detention over meaningful changes to the law that would benefit American families, communities, and businesses.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains nearly 400,000 immigrants per year in at least 300 immigration detention facilities across the country, costing taxpayers approximately $2.55 billion annually. The detention population has grown more than 60 percent between 2004 and 2008, hitting record numbers last year. Medical care in detention is inadequate and more than 107 immigrants have died while in detention since 2003.

In order to have the greatest impact, D3P uses three collaborative approaches:

  • Litigation: Federal court litigation provides an avenue to challenge laws, policies, and practices that violate the Constitution or U.S. immigration laws.
  • Policy Advocacy: NIJC builds bridges among supporters of immigrant rights and strengthens advocates’ capacity to monitor current systems, exposes violations of human and constitutional rights, and presents viable recommendations to the White House, members of Congress, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and international human rights bodies.
  • Strategic Communications: NIJC is a leading voice in the defense of immigrant rights. Providing factual information gathered first-hand in jails, courthouses, and communities, NIJC uses a rights-based lens to frame pressing issues that affect immigrants’ lives and the well-being of our nation at large. 

NIJC's September 2010 report, Isolated in Detention: Limited Access to Counsel in Immigration Detention Facilities Jeopardizes a Fair Day in Court, demonstrates the gross lack of legal services for detained immigrants in isolated facilities across the United States.

Impact: Raise Awareness, Save a Life

NIJC drew on its litigation, advocacy, and communications expertise in support of NIJC client Carlyle Dale, a lawful U.S. resident arbitrarily detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more than five years. Mr. Dale suffered from medical conditions that became life-threatening when ICE neglected to provide him proper medical care in detention. NIJC and its pro bono partners brought Mr. Dale’s case to the attention of the Obama administration, litigated his case in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Fifth Circuit, submitted a petition on Mr.