ACLU Calls Immigrant Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008 Long Overdue

September 17, 2008 12:00 am

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Legislation is first congressional action to require adequate medical care for immigration detainees

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Washington, DC – Today for the second time in two weeks, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up a bill requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop procedures to ensure adequate medical and mental health care for all detainees held by DHS Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The ACLU urges the House Judiciary Committee members to vote for H.R. 5950, the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008, introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). This bill is the first congressional action to provide basic medical care of immigration detainees after months of compelling TV and newspaper exposes detailing deficient medical care and over 60 immigration detention deaths.

The following can be attributed to Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel:

“The Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008 is long overdue. Too many immigration detainees have needlessly suffered, and even died, as a result of shabby or no medical care. These accounts have been documented by The New York Times, The Washington Post, ‘60 Minutes,’ and many other news outlets. Month after month we learn of horror stories of detainees who have unnecessarily had to face amputation, chemotherapy, radiation because ICE repeatedly ignored their cries for medical help.

“The bill will set standards for timely and effective delivery of medical care to immigration detainees by providing medical screenings and examinations, continuity of care, and discharge planning. Health care professionals will be required to make all treatment decisions based on medical clinical judgments, not on cost-savings to DHS. The legislation will also require ICE to report detainee deaths to Congress and the DHS Office of the Inspector General.

“ICE’s handling of immigration detainees, which includes repeated denials or delays of medical care, contradicts American values. Time is running out in this legislative session for Congress to take action to halt any more detainee deaths.”

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