National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Media

Memo to Lamar Smith: Protecting Human Rights Is Not Generosity

March 28, 2012

See the National Immigration Forum's Statement for the Record here.

Read an April 2 letter to White House Domestic Policy Counsel Director Cecilia Muñoz about covering immigrant detention facilities under the Prison Rape Elimination Act here.


Washington, D.C. —Today, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held a hearing on the new immigration detention standards issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At the hearing, provocatively titled “Holiday on ICE: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's New Immigration Detention Standards,” legislators criticized the upgraded standards as “pampering” and called for an increase in detention space. The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.

“Protecting the basic human rights of anyone who is under the government’s watch is not ‘hospitality’; it is the common-sense obligation of a country that prides itself on its devotion to fairness, due process and dignity. The improved immigration detention standards are no more than a good first step toward addressing the safety and human rights deficiencies that leave immigrant detainees vulnerable to abuse and medical emergencies.

“Instead of deriding access to medical care and protection from rape for immigration detainees as over-generosity by the government, Chairman Lamar Smith should use a magnifying glass to examine the high and often unnecessary expense surrounding the overuse of immigration detention. Millions of taxpayer dollars could be saved annually if the government maximized cheaper alternatives to detention for nonviolent individuals. Alternatives can range in cost from as low as 30 cents to 14 dollars a day per individual. By comparison, it costs ICE an average of $122 per day to detain an immigrant.

“The improved detention standards provide common-sense fixes to some of the most serious problems of immigrant detention. While some progress has been made, more has to be done to advance much-needed reforms to our immigration detention system. Necessary reforms would promote efficiency, ensure the health and safety of those in custody, and inject accountability into the immigration detention system.”

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For more information on the immigration detention costs, please read the Forum’s “Math of Immigration Detention”: http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/MathofImmigrationDetention.pdf.

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