DHS Plan To Improve Immigration Detention An Encouraging Step

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Claire O'Brien, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

DHS Plan To Improve Immigration Detention An Encouraging Step

Due Process, Enforceable Detention Standards And Overhaul Of ICE Enforcement Programs Still Needed

WASHINGTON - Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced
plans to improve the nation's immigration detention system. According
to today's announcement, DHS would consolidate many detainees in
facilities with conditions that reflect their status as non-criminals,
provide sound medical care in the facilities and establish more
centralized oversight of detention centers.
 
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; oversight of local police enforcement of
immigration laws in the "Criminal Alien" and 287(g) programs resulting
in the harassment of innocent people; and a commitment to alternatives
to detention, especially for families.
 
The following can be attributed to
Judy Rabinovitz, Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union
Immigrants' Rights Project:

"It's encouraging that DHS is
calling for improved immigration detention conditions that reflect the
nature of the detained population. However, meaningful reform of the
system must focus not only on the conditions under which immigrants are
being detained, but on why they are being detained in the first place –
often for prolonged periods of time – when other forms of supervised
release would be sufficient to address the government's concerns, as
well as the need for basic due process.  

"Thousands of immigrants are locked
up unnecessarily without access to counsel or bond hearings while they
undergo immigration proceedings, which can take years to resolve. Many
of them are lawful permanent residents with criminal convictions for
which they already served their sentences – often relatively minor and
from years past. Yet they are imprisoned for years without the most
basic element of due process – a bond hearing to determine if their
detention is even necessary."

The following can be attributed to Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel:

"The new DHS detention initiatives
fail to examine the pipeline that channels hundreds of thousands of
people into ICE detention in the first place. A large segment of people
detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have not been
convicted of any crime. According to the DHS's own report, the majority
of people apprehended under the state and local immigration enforcement
programs, including the Criminal Alien Program, 287(g) and Secure
Communities, are 'non-criminals.' Yet they are referred to ICE for
detention and removal. In order to truly reform and improve its
immigration detention system, DHS must reform the ICE enforcement
programs that are herding masses of people into ICE detention every
day."

The following can be attributed to Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project:

"It is a hopeful sign that the Obama
administration has expressed a commitment to improving the level of
medical care provided to immigration detainees in U.S. custody. But the
number of needless deaths in detention across the country will not be
curbed until Immigration and Customs Enforcement is stripped of its
discretionary ability to deny detainees 'non-emergency' care –
including cancer biopsies and heart surgery.

"Because the government's overuse of
immigration detention has forced large numbers of people into detention
for years at a time, providing only emergency care is simply
unacceptable."

The ICE Immigration Detention Overview and Recommendations Report by Dr. Dora Schriro can be found at: www.ice.gov/doclib/091005_ice_detention_report-final.pdf

The ICE fact sheet on the detention reforms can be found at: www.ice.gov/pi/news/factsheets/2009_immigration_detention_reforms.htm

A short video about restoring
fairness and due process to the immigration system by Breakthrough and
coproduced by the ACLU and other organizations can be found at: restorefairness.org/

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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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