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The Boston Globe

Metro

Part 2 — Secret prisoners

Out of sight, detainees struggle to be heard

With constitutional rights lacking, even for those with no record of crime, immigrants languish, pawns in a burgeoning law enforcement system that is defined by secrecy

Irene Bamenga had her plane ticket to go home. The 29-year-old, carrying a bag of medications to treat a life-threatening heart condition, had planned to return to France and wait out her application for permanent residence in the United States before rejoining her husband in Lynn.

Bamenga had stayed in the United States much longer than she was supposed to under a visa waiver program, but she was exactly the kind of person immigration agents are officially encouraged not to put in jail: She had no criminal record, a husband in the country legally, and a heart condition — and she was trying to leave on her own anyway.

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