Daily Dispatch 9/26/2019: Support the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act
September 26, 2019
Today congress is holding two oversight hearings on detention practices in the United States:
- “The Expansion and Troubling Use of ICE Detention” — House Judiciary, Immigration & Citizenship Subcommittee, Thursday 9/26 at 10:30 am.
- “Oversight of ICE Detention Facilities: Is DHS Doing Enough?” — House Homeland Committee, Oversight, Management & Accountability Subcommittee, Thursday 9/26 at 2 pm.
Reports of inadequate health care access, the extensive use of solitary confinement, lack of communication with family and attorneys, forced labor, overcrowding leading to disease outbreaks, and even deaths mount. As we wrote two weeks ago, since January of 2017, 25 adults have died while being held in detention, and at least six children have died either while in detention or from illnesses contracted during detention. None of this has moved this administration or congress to change. Trump has increased detention under Immigration and Customs Enforcement 40 percent since taking office – moving funds from other Department of Homeland Security accounts to pay for it in defiance of congressional budgetary mandates to slow the use of detention.
The hearings today will help raise awareness about the horrible conditions that people are detained in, and the lack of oversight that detention facilities operate under. This is especially true for private contractors who act with impunity. GEOGroup and CoreCivic facilities are routinely cited for failing to provide services or adequate care, but never lose contracts or are otherwise held to account. DHS even treats their contracts as “sensitive” records immune from full disclosure under FOIA requests. All that said, aside from condemnatory statements to the press, there has been little response from Democratic leaders in congress that would actually force a change in detention practices.
With the hearings today we hope to build momentum for a more systemic response. There is a bill before the House of Representatives that would make a huge difference in the treatment of immigrants held in detention – and importantly would reduce those numbers as well. We need members of congress – your member of congress – to co-sponsor it.
HR 2415, or the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2019 is currently before two subcommittees. It may not get a floor vote this congressional session, but it is still important for us to demonstrate broad support in congress for changes to this detention system. Currently there are 130 cosponsors, but we need more.
The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would:
- Require DHS to establish clear detention guidelines based on the American Bar Association’s Civil Immigration Detention Standards.
- Hold all facilities accountable to those standards through more frequent unannounced inspections, and the cancellation of contracts to private companies or state and local facilities that fail to make improvements.
- Phase out contracting with private companies over a three year period, as well as the use of other facilities not directly under Department of Homeland Security supervision.
- Establish a variety of mechanisms to ensure transparency and public disclosure of information about detention facilities.
- Ensure that determinations about detention are made within 48 hours, that immigrants have a probable cause hearing and that the guiding principle those held is placement in the least restrictive conditions possible.
- The bill includes a sense of the Congress statement, “that detention, even for a short period of time, inflicts severe, irreparable harm on children and should be avoided.” No one under the age of 18 can be held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Facility (ICE).
- Mandatory detention is repealed. (Mandatory detention treats people as part of a “class” disregarding any due process concerning the specifics of their case, including asylum claims. Mandatory detention is a violation of international law).
This is the bill we need on detention. We may not get it this term, with this Senate and this president, but we can still push. With enough co-sponsors, we might even press a vote in the House and can certainly build momentum for further action in the next Congressional session.
Contact your member of Congress today, and ask them to co-sponsor HR 2415, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act. The Congressional Switchboard is (202) 224- 3121.