Ian Gordon

Ian Gordon

Copy Editor

When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Welcome to America's 10 Worst Immigration Detention Centers (Map)

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 5:49 PM EST

Polk County Detention Facility, in eastern Texas

Rotten food, limited access to sunlight, and even arbitrary solitary confinement: For undocumented immigrants in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, detention could mean all that and more.

According to the Detention Watch Network, a national coalition pushing for changes in immigration detention, ICE holds more than 400,000 immigrants in 33,400 jail beds across the United States. On Thursday, DWN released a report highlighting what it calls the nation's 10 worst immigration detention centers and calling for their immediate closure. Among the abuses at these jails and prisons—most run by county prison systems, but some by private firms like Corrections Corporation of America—the report claims: 

At all ten of the facilities, people reported waiting weeks or months for medical care; inadequate, and in some cases a total absence, of any outdoor recreation time or access to sunlight or fresh air; minimal and inedible food; the use of solitary confinement as punishment; and the extreme remoteness of many of the facilities from any urban area which makes access to legal services nearly impossible.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen Frontline's excellent "Lost in Detention," which focused on the fallout from Obama's deportation-heavy first term. Still, the 2009 death of 39-year-old Roberto Medina Martínez at Georgia's Stewart Detention Center—one of the facilities called out by DWN—is a graphic reminder of what can happen when more and more immigrants are rounded up for deportation and sent to overwhelmed and inadequate facilities, where they're often treated like prisoners even though they're not serving criminal sentences. (Rather, they're undergoing administrative immigration proceedings that usually result in deportation.)

Immigration reform may be a post-election topic du jour—with everyone from President Obama to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pledging to push legislation posthaste—but hardly anyone is talking about fixing our broken detention system. As Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said in a Thursday press call, "Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to continue to support this waste of money and resources."

Click on our map below to learn more about each of DWN's worst offenders:

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Maryland Dreamers Score Latest Immigrant Victory

| Thu Nov. 8, 2012 7:03 AM EST

With the passage of Tuesday's Question 4 ballot initiative, Maryland became the latest state—and the first by popular vote—to pass a so-called state Dream Act, allowing undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition rates for public college and universities there. Fourteen states* now have such laws on the books:

It might not have been the most controversial initiative on Maryland ballots this year—that'd be Question 6, the same-sex-marriage measure, which also passed—but the Dream Act still generated a heated debate in the Old Line State. The bill originally was approved by the General Assembly and was signed by Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley in 2011, but opponents, led by the group Help Save Maryland, collected well over the nearly 56,000 signatures required to force a referendum on the issue.

Coming just months after President Obama's deferred-action directive, the result was another bit of good news for advocates of immigrants' rights, who in the past couple of years have fought both the Obama administration over its deportation of more than 1 million undocumented immigrants and various statehouses over the bevy of self-deportation-related state immigration laws like Arizona's SB 1070.

Now, with Obama's reelection secured thanks in no small part to the overwhelming support of Latino voters, they will try to hold him to his campaign promise to push through comprehensive immigration reform. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's post-election comments were any indication, immigration could follow the fiscal cliff as 2013's biggest legislative battle.

*Note: According to the National Immigration Law Center's Tanya Broder, Minnesota, while not marked on the above map, offers a flat tuition rate to students, regardless of immigration status. Also, Rhode Island's state measure was passed by its higher education board, not the Legislature.

Exposing Major League Baseball's Seamy Side in the Dominican Republic

| Fri Jul. 13, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Ballplayer: Pelotero
Strand
73 minutes

In the riveting new documentary film Ballplayer: Pelotero, there's an early scene in which four Dominican teens are sitting in a spartan dorm room, shooting the shit about the future they anticipate as professional players in the United States. They joke about how their countrymen play with more flair than Americans and venture that Dominicans are harder workers and more talented than their northern counterparts. Then one of them gets serious. "A lot of us have pulled off tricks so we can sign," he says. "People change their ages and all that. But that's just what you have to do." 

For years, that sentiment—you do what you gotta do—has pervaded baseball in the Dominican Republic, home to 11 percent of major-leaguers, 24 percent of minor-leaguers, and a not-insignificant percentage of the game's recent scandals. Baseball is seen by many young men and their families in the Dominican as a way out; nearly 3.5 million people live in poverty (including some 1 million who subsist on less than $2 a day), and that sense of desperation has helped contribute to steroid abuse and widespread age and identification fraud among would-be players, often with the help of exploitative talent brokers known as buscones.

In the film, directors Ross Finkel, Travor Martin, and Jon Paley zoom in on two players, highly coveted Miguel Ángel Sanó and under-the-radar Jean Carlos Batista, as they train in advance for the big day: July 2, the first day that Dominican 16-year-olds can sign a contract with a big-league club. They go behind the scenes à la Hoop Dreams to illustrate just how shady the recruiting process can get in Major League Baseball's favorite feeding ground.

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