DHS Plan To Improve Immigration Detention And Close Hutto Facility A Good First Step

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, (646) 233-9572 or (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

DHS Plan To Improve Immigration Detention And Close Hutto Facility A Good First Step

Enforceable Standards And Community-Based Alternatives To Detention Still Needed, Says ACLU

NEW YORK - Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) officials today announced intentions to
improve the nation's immigration detention system, including ending
family detention at the T. Don Hutto family detention center in Taylor,
TX.

The government's announcement,
however, failed to address a number of critical holes in the current
system, including a lack of enforceable basic conditions standards, due
process to ensure people are not unnecessarily detained, especially for
prolonged periods of time, and alternatives to detention.

"Ending family detention at Hutto is
extremely welcome and long overdue, and the American Civil Liberties
Union looks forward to working with DHS to revamp the broken
immigration detention system," said Joanne Lin, Legislative Counsel
with the ACLU. "However, in order to effectuate meaningful reform of
the immigration detention system, DHS must issue legally binding and
enforceable detention standards, which DHS has refused to do for years,
and must provide basic due process to ensure that individuals –
including U.S. citizens – are not being inappropriately locked up,
often for prolonged periods of time." 

The ACLU has called for the overhaul
of the massive immigration detention system, which has produced over 90
detainee deaths since 2003. DHS locks up in prisons and jails about
32,000 civil immigration detainees each day who are pursuing their
immigration cases in the courts. Across the country, treatment of
immigration detainees has been poor and inhumane, with many being
denied critical medical care. Since DHS has not acted, Congress must
now pass the "Safe Treatment, Avoiding Needless Deaths, and Abuse
Reduction in the Detention System Act," which would aim to prevent
deaths of immigration detainees by requiring DHS to issue detention
regulations that are legally binding and enforceable.

According to today's announcement,
plans are in the works to consolidate many detainees in facilities with
conditions that reflect their status as non-criminals, establish more
centralized authority over the system and create more direct oversight
of detention centers.

The government will also stop
sending families to Hutto, a former state prison that was the focus of
ACLU lawsuits filed in 2007 on behalf of 26 immigrant children and
which charged that the children were being illegally imprisoned in
inhumane conditions while their parents awaited immigration decisions.

A settlement agreement which
required Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to make a number of
significant improvements to the conditions inside the facility and
subjected ICE to external oversight is set to expire on August 29. ACLU
attorneys are in discussions with government lawyers to extend the
agreement until the last family has been released from Hutto, which is
expected to be no later than the end of the year.

"No young child should ever be
forced to spend time in an adult prison," said Vanita Gupta, staff
attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "We commend the
government for closing Hutto as an important first step toward ensuring
the implementation of more humane detention policies. The problems that
have plagued Hutto demonstrate the necessity of meaningful reform."

Additional information about the
ACLU's litigation challenging the conditions and illegal imprisonment
of children at Hutto is available online at: www.aclu.org/hutto

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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