ACLU Calls on Congress to Improve and Codify Immigration Detention Standards
Detained Immigrants Are Uniquely Vulnerable to Abuse and Poor Treatment
Survivors of torture, asylum-seekers, families with small children and individuals with serious mental health and medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, are routinely locked up in jails or under jail-like conditions. Studies conducted by the bipartisan Commission on International Religious Freedom, New York University's Bellevue Program, and Physicians for Human Rights have demonstrated that, even in well-run jails, detention itself poses a serious threat to the psychological health of the detainees. Without the right to appointed counsel and often detained in remote locations, detainees are unable to exercise fully what rights they do have. There are safer, and more cost-effective alternatives to detention for most immigrants ICE currently detains.
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America Shouldn't Treat People This Way
There are no binding uniform detention standards that ensure the humane treatment of detainees. Detainees, including children, are often subjected to arbitrary punishment, including strip-searching shackling; solitary confinement; neglect of basic medical and hygienic needs; denial of outdoor recreation; lack of access to phones, mail and legal resources; and verbal, physical and even sexual abuse. A recent report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) found multiple violations of the non-binding ICE National Detention Standards at each of the five facilities audited and, more disturbing still, criticized the thoroughness of ICE'S own inspections of detention facilities. In addition, there is no mechanism in place for reporting deaths in immigration detention to any oversight body, including the OIG, and therefore, there are no routine investigations into deaths in ICE custody.
Inadequate Medical Care Leads to Unnecessary Suffering and Death
At least 62 people have died in ICE custody since 2004, according to a recent New York Times article. Deficient medical care has led to numerous avoidable deaths, and has caused unnecessary suffering for thousands of people in immigration detention. Immigrant detainees routinely experience iong delays before treatment, are frequently denied necessary medication for chronic illnesses, and are often refused essential referrals prescribed by medical staff.
Health care in immigration detention is provided in accordance with the deeply flawed Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS) Covered Services Package. On-site medical staff must get approval from DIHS to provide medically necessary referrals before treating detainees. Medical staff at facilities who are responsible for examining patients and determining necessary treatment frequently have their recommendations for treatment overruled by DIHS staff in Washington D.C. due to limitations of the DIHS package.