US immigration detention centers violate rights: advocacy group

[JURIST] US detention centers for illegal immigrants have failed to meet basic standards [press release] for the treatment of those held at the facilities, according to a report [text, PDF] released Tuesday by the National Immigration Law Center [advocacy website] and two other groups. The groups said that immigrants being held in the US are often denied adequate visitation, telephone, recreation, legal information access, and grievance rights. It also said that the institutions failed to follow standards for detainee transfer, holding, and discipline procedures. The groups said that by denying immigrants these rights, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] agency has failed to observe rules set out in its Detention Management Control Program Manual [text]:


There is no question that the nation's immigrant detention system is broken to its core. The findings in this report, as well as those recently documented by various government and independent agencies, reveal pervasive and extreme violations of the government's own detention standards as well as fundamental violations of basic human rights and notions of dignity. Simply by making detention standards enforceable and putting resources into enforcing them, both Congress and the administration could take concrete steps to ensure that no immigrant in the custody of the federal government is held in a facility that cannot or refuses to comply with these minimum requirements. More fundamentally, given the documented abuses in the nation's immigrant detention system, the federal government should halt the system's further expansion and make increased use of humane alternatives to detention.

The group called on the government to institute standards for the treatment of immigrants that have the force of law, to apply these standards to not only facilities operated by ICE but also those under the control of other agencies, and to increase mechanisms for internal reviews and transparency.

Since its creation in 2003, ICE has been criticized for many of the methods it uses to capture and detain illegal immigrants. Earlier this month, the Immigration Justice Clinic [academic website] at the Cardozo School of Law released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] saying that immigration agents have committed numerous constitutional violations during raids on immigrants' homes. In February, the clinic reported that ICE documents [text, PDF] obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [5 USC § 552 text; JURIST news archive] show that Bush administration immigration enforcement tactics were both overly-aggressive and ineffective [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, the US Department of Homeland Security [official website] announced changes to immigration policies [press release; JURIST report] for state and local agencies. The new policies create uniform standards for local agencies that will require them to pursue all criminal charges leading to an immigrant's arrest prior to initiating removal proceedings.


 

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