ACLU Calls on Congress to Improve and Codify Immigration Detention Standards

July 10, 2007
On July 9, 2007, medical and legal experts briefed Congress about the 62 deaths and abuse in immigrant detention centers run by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
> Testimony of Tom Jawetz, Immigration Detention Staff Attorney, National Prison Project
> Testimony of Michele Garnett McKenzie, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
> Testimony of Allen S. Keller, M.D., NYU School of Medicine
> Testimony of June Everett, whose sister died in ICE custody
LEARN MORE
> ACLU Calls on Immigration Officials to Release Information About Immigrant Detention Deaths (6/27/2007)
> ACLU Sues Over Lack of Medical Treatment at San Diego Detention Facility
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Immigration Dentention Facility Conditions are Un-American
PODCAST
Tom Jawetz discusses the conditions of confinement inside the country's immigrant detention facilities
Streaming | Podcast
Nearly 300,000 men, women, and children are detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each year, the majority of whom have no criminal history whatsoever. Thousands arrived on our shores fleeing persecution and torture, only to be locked up like criminals in one of over 400 detention facilities around the country. Congress must ensure that detained immigrants receive treatment that reflects America's fundamental values.

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.

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