Bill Ushers in Humane Standards for Immigration Detention Facilities

For Immediate Release

ACLU
Contact: 

Linda Paris or Matt Allee (202) 675-2312 or media@dcaclu.org
Teresa Borden (213) 977-5242

Bill Ushers in Humane Standards for Immigration Detention Facilities

Long-awaited legislation ensures access to medical care, including protections from forcible drugging and deportation

WASHINGTON - Today
Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced legislation to
adopt humane standards for immigration detention facilities that are
legally enforceable. The ACLU applauds Rep. Roybal-Allard for her
leadership in ensuring that all immigration detainees receive basic
minimum protections including access to medical care, phones, legal
materials, and law libraries. The bill, H.R. 7255, the Immigration
Oversight and Fairness Act, also provides special protections for
unaccompanied children, sexual abuse victims, survivors of torture,
families with children and other vulnerable populations.
 

In
2000, the federal government established immigration detention
standards, but these standards are not legally enforceable and thus not
consistently implemented. Consequently, thousands of immigration
detainees have been subjected to inhumane conditions that violate basic
minimum standards of due process and decency. The ACLU and other NGOs
have received countless complaints from immigration detainees regarding
deplorable medical care, no working phones and abuse while in
detention. Many of these accounts have been documented by 60 Minutes,
the New York Times, the Washington Post and other news outlets.
 

According
to Joanne Lin, ACLU legislative counsel, in recent years immigration
detention rates have skyrocketed, rising to over 300,000 people being
deported in 2007 and over 30,000 detained on any given day. According
to Lin, "The absence of legally enforceable detention condition
standards has meant that no one really knows what is happening inside
immigration detention facilities - the family members of detainees
don't know, Congress doesn't know, the American public doesn't
know. This legislation is necessary to introduce transparency and
oversight into an unregulated and unaccountable immigration detention
system."
 

In
June 2007, the ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit on behalf of
two detainees, Raymond Soeoth and Amadou Diouf, who were forcibly
injected with a combination of antipsychotic drugs even though neither
had a history of mental illness.  Soeoth, a Christian minister from
Indonesia, sought political asylum based on religious persecution.
 Diouf, a native of Senegal married to a U.S. citizen, had a stay of
deportation at the time he was drugged.  After the ACLU filed the suit,
the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration Customs Enforcement
(ICE) issued a directive ending its policy of forcibly drugging
deportees, but stopped short of issuing regulations to ensure that the
policy has the force of law.
 

"This
bill would create important protections for the health and welfare of
those who are incarcerated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement,"
said Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrants' rights and national
security for the ACLU of Southern California and the lawyer who
represented the immigration detainees subject to forcible drugging.
 "In particular, it would definitively put an end to the inhumane
treatment that hundreds of immigrants have been subjected to over the
past four years when ICE agents injected them with anti-psychotic drugs
prior to deporting them." 

These
ACLU lawsuits underscore the need for Congress to pass legislation that
brings transparency and oversight to ICE's unconstitutional detention
and deportation practices. With this goal in the mind, the
Roybal-Allard bill would do the following:
 

  • Establish legally enforceable detention condition standards such as access to phones and medical care;
  • Ensure that detainees receive appropriate medical care, and creates safeguards against forcible drugging;
  • Promote community-based "alternatives to detention" programs that are cost-effective and successful;
  • Mandate DHS implement regulations that guarantee immigration detainees are treated fairly and humanely.
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