December 15, 2017

Harris, Duckworth, Senate Colleagues Urge Appropriators to Mandate Immigration Detention Centers Meet National Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today led a group of Senate Democrats to urge House and Senate Appropriators to mandate that all facilities within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention system meet the most current national standards as a condition of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations.

The senators wrote, “Poor conditions and inhumane treatment of immigrants within ICE detention facilities continue to fuel tragic and unjust consequences. Immigrants suffer mentally and physically – some have even lost their lives – as a result of dangerous, cruel, and unsanitary conditions and medical negligence within some facilities.”

The letter comes on the heels of a troubling new report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General that details insufficient facilities and inhumane conditions. The United States maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world, detaining approximately 380,000 to 442,000 persons per year.

The letter was also signed by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Full text of the letter is here and below:

 

December 15, 2017

The Honorable John Carter                                            The Honorable Lucille Roybal-Allard   

Chairman                                                                        Ranking Member

House Committee on Appropriations                             House Committee on Appropriations

Subcommittee on Homeland Security                            Subcommittee on Homeland Security

 

The Honorable John Boozman                                      The Honorable Jon Tester

Chairman                                                                        Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Appropriations                             Senate Committee on Appropriations

Subcommittee on Homeland Security                            Subcommittee on Homeland Security

 

Dear Chairman Carter, Ranking Member Roybal-Allard, Chairman Boozman, and Ranking Member Tester:

As your Subcommittees consider FY18 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations, we urge you to include report language to mandate that all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention system facilities, including contract facilities and local and county jails operating under Inter-Governmental Service Agreements, meet ICE 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) requirements as last revised in 2016. 

Mandating that all ICE detention system facilities meet updated PBNDS requirements will help mitigate troubling current limits on oversight and accountability in federal immigration detention practices. Implementing these standards is especially important given the dramatic increase in arrests by ICE and efforts under this administration to expand the incarceration of immigrants. These trends, combined with plans by DHS to use criminal detention standards for a civil detention system, require immediate attention by Congress.  

ICE PBNDS – overhauled with diverse stakeholder input in 2011, updated in 2013 and again last year– reflect a critical step to improve health and safety within immigrant detention facilities. ICE has failed, however, to conduct reasonable inspections of and broadly apply PBNDS requirements to all of the more than two hundred facilities in its detention system. In fact, the most recent data made publicly available by ICE – which was only released in the course of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation – reveals that 151 of the 201 detention facilities currently in use by ICE are inspected using woefully out of date 2000 National Detention Standards. 

Poor conditions and inhumane treatment of immigrants within ICE detention facilities continue to fuel tragic and unjust consequences. Immigrants suffer mentally and physically – some have even lost their lives – as a result of dangerous, cruel, and unsanitary conditions and medical negligence within some facilities.  A majority of immigrants in ICE detention facilities additionally face immense barriers to access counsel to assist them in their complex immigration legal proceedings, which violates principles of due process. 

Mandating that all facilities within the ICE detention system meet the most current PBNDS requirements as a condition of DHS appropriations would create a powerful framework for oversight and accountability to drive necessary reform of an intolerable federal immigration detention status quo.

Thank you for your consideration of our request and for your considerable efforts on FY18 appropriations. 

Sincerely,

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