National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Immigration Detention: A Critical Need for Congressional Oversight

October 04, 2007

Washington, DC – Today, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law holds a hearing on medical care for immigration detainees.  The witnesses for this hearing include advocates, patients and family members who have been a victim of or witness to the deadly consequences of poor medical treatment while in immigration jail.  The following is a statement by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Deputy Director for Legal Affairs at the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington.

There is a critical need for Congressional oversight when it comes to our immigration system.  The level of disrepair is so widespread, it is hard to know where Congress should start, but detention standards and monitoring the basic needs of detainees is as good a place to start as any.

Around the country we see too many reports of people dying in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), often due to medical maltreatment or neglect.  ICE itself reports that at least 62 people have died in its custody since 2004.  While it has 38 detention standards it is required to follow regarding care and treatment of immigration detainees, ICE frequently violates these standards.  Therefore, the scrutiny of the House Immigration Subcommittee, Chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), is timely and especially welcome.

Shining the light of a Congressional hearing on this issue is a critical step in curtailing detainee abuse and mistreatment, and ensuring that ICE lives up to its own standards and that those standards reflect what we should expect of our government.


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