Broad Policy Changes Needed in Light of Report on Treatment of Immigrants
January 17, 2007
Washington, DC – The recently released report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) regarding the treatment of immigration detainees should spark needed policy changes. The report focuses on detention standards regarding health care, environmental health and safety, general conditions of confinement, and reporting of abuses. As part of this detention audit, the Inspector General met with DHS officials, detainees, and Non-Governmental Organizations and conducted field work at the five detention facilities in California, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
The OIG report finds instances of violations with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention standards at all five facilities. Among other things, the report documents cases where immigration detainees received little or no access to functioning telephones, legal materials, or medical care. Importantly, the OIG report also finds that ICE’s current process for monitoring compliance with detention standards is insufficient.
“The report highlights what advocates have been reporting on for years – that in many places the detention standards are not followed, resulting in detainees being denied access to lawyers and proper medical care,” said Christina DeConcini, Policy Director at the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington. “This is the only prison population that does not have a right to government-appointed counsel. The standards were designed to ensure that, at a minimum, immigration detainees are able to make free phone calls to volunteer attorneys. Among other findings, this report highlights that this isn't happening,” DeConcini said.
DeConcini points out that without counsel most immigration detainees are unable to maneuver through a complicated legal system in a foreign language and thus are denied the fundamental right to a fair process.
“We aren't surprised by the findings because we have been reporting on these types of problem for years and they remain unaddressed,” continued DeConcini. “It is imperative that the standards be codified into regulation so as to be legally enforceable and that Congress increase its monitoring and oversight of immigration detention,” she added.
“This report adds to the growing body of evidence that the current process used by DHS to monitor compliance with detention standards is deficient. It is time for Congress to take action to protect the fundamental rights of immigration detainees,” concluded DeConcini.