US rights commission criticizes immigrant detention facilities
US rights commission criticizes immigrant detention facilities

[JURIST] The US Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) [official website] has issued a report [press release, PDF] criticizing the Obama administration’s immigration detention facilities, stating that some “are not fully complying with detention standards regarding medical care, legal information and other basic standards of treatment.” The report [text, PDF], “The State of Civil Rights at Immigration Detention Facilities,” first outlines the role and duties of the USCCR and the relevant laws and standards before launching a discussion on the violations and those responsible. The report documents the story of Mirabel, a 16-year-old immigrant from Honduras, who fled after her father almost killed her with a machete. Once she arrived in the US she was detained and placed in a detention facility for six months before she went before a judge and was placed in foster care in Virginia. Under the Flores Settlement Agreement [text], the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] “may detain unaccompanied alien children only to secure their timely appearance before a […] Court, or to ensure their safety or the safety of others,” and there is “serious doubt” as to whether unaccompanied alien children should be detained at all by DHS. The report also documents the experiences of detained children who were denied medical care, strip searched and mocked. After finding compliance issue, the USCCR made several recommendations such as the convening of “an intergovernmental compliance task force to investigate, analyze, and strengthen compliance regiments,” “extensive review” of third-party contracts, and the immediate release of detained families.

US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial and heavily politicized area of law at both the state and federal levels. Last month a California judge upheld her July decision [JURIST reports] and ordered the government to release immigrant children held in family detention centers, “without necessary delay.” In February a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked [JURIST report] two key parts of a recent immigration initiative announced by US President Barack Obama [official website] that would halt the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. In November a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] struck down [JURIST report] an Arizona law that made smuggling immigrants a state crime because it conflicts with federal laws governing immigration. In August 2013 the Obama administration released [JURIST report] a policy directive known as the “Family Interest Directive,” emphasizing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should apply “prosecutorial discretion” towards undocumented immigrant parents of minors to limit detaining parents and to safeguard their parental rights. In June 2013 the US Senate approved [JURIST report] a bill which would create new pathways to US citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the US. That bill was subsequently not approved by the House.