Friday, October 23, 2020

Report Finds Immigration Detention Centers Falling Short of Standards

A report issued Tuesday assessing the federal government’s regulation of immigration detention centers found detainees were being denied sufficient recreation time and not given adequate access to attorneys, legal materials and telephones. The report is based on reviews conducted by customs officials from 2001 to 2005, the American Bar Association and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Due to these violations, many detainees faced great challenges in making their case to stay in the U.S. and often were denied their rights to due process. “The findings in our report raise serious doubts as to whether the hundreds of thousands of immigrants detained each year get a fair shot at justice,” said one of the authors, Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center.

Dora Schriro, special advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, said that the report was careful and impressive but also dated, because half of the reviews occurred before the creation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2003. She conceded that while oversight of detention centers’ operations has increased, there are still some areas of the immigration detention system that need to be improved. “Where there are opportunities to improve the current system we are clearly committed to making those changes,” she said.

Expansion of immigration detention has contributed to the negligence. There are currently more than 31,000 detainees, up from roughly 20,000 in early 2006. “These problems have been exacerbated by the growth in detention,” Tumlin said. “What we have is a monster immigration detention system that is woefully unregulated.” She believes that the same issues cited are still present today and that the standards are so often violated because they cannot be enforced.

The government updated its standards in 2008, but they are not legally binding. The report recommends that either Congress or the Obama administration make these standards the law. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced legislation in February that, if passed, would accomplish that goal. The Department of Homeland Security has plans to announce changes to the immigration detention system in the near future.

The report, co-written by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the law firm of Holland & Knight, also recommended that the government include training on detention standards, punish centers that don’t comply and promote uniformity across the facilities.

LA Times