Not Too Late For Reform: a new report on inhumane conditions in immigrant detention centers in Kentucky and Illinois, 12/12/11

14 Dec
A new report by the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights exposes the persisting inhumane conditions in three immigrant detention centers: Jefferson County Jail and Tri-County Detention Center in Illinois and Boone County Jail in Kentucky. The report documents the following:

  • Many detainees have no criminal history or have been charged with only minor offenses. In Kentucky’s Boone County Jail, at least 50% of detainees assessed for legal relief fell into this category.
  • Detainees are denied access to legal counsel. Investigators found that an estimated 84% of immigrant detainees had no access to attorneys. Complicating things further, individuals must either pay for an attorney or rely on scarcely available pro bono services.
  • Detention centers violate basic human rights such as access to food and medical services. While ICE’s National Detention Standards states that detainees should be served two hot meals every day, detainees in Illinois’ Jefferson County Jail go hungry, and report receiving a hot meal only once every two weeks.
  • Detainees are denied adequate medical services and are required to pay for them, which they often cannot afford. In one case, an HIV positive detainee was not allowed to see a doctor for more than six weeks.

These detention centers are an example of how current immigration policies are a threat to public health.  As a result of these policies, the detention system has been created for the sole purpose of locking-up individuals, for indefinite periods of time, who are waiting for their immigration case to be reviewed.  Current Federal regulations allow for little oversight of detention centers and, as a result, abuse is rampant.  Sadly, the reports of inhumane conditions across the detention system have become a common occurrence. As we have written in previous blog posts and factsheets, additional investigations find that detention guards physically and sexually abuse many immigrant detainees. In a recent editorial, the New York Times, called upon the U.S. to fulfill promises to reform detentions centers to eliminate these abuses, rely on other means for deporting individuals, and provide detainees more access to the legal system.

The conditions in these detention centers mark a clear failure by our federal government. In 2009, it had announced it would improve these centers. This year is rapidly ending, and 2012 will likely arrive with no change in these deplorable conditions. The Obama administration should be held accountable to making significant changes in 2012. One first step would be to close the worst detention centers that violate human rights, including Boone County Jail, Jefferson County Jail, and Tri-County Detention Center in the Midwest.

Other News 12/5 – 12/12:

Supreme Court to Rule on Immigration Law in Arizona, The New York Times, 12.12.11
On Monday, the Supreme Court that it would decide whether Arizona had the authority to impose anti-immigrant policies despite objections from the Obama administration. The decision is likely to come in the middle of next year’s presidential campaign and is joined by other major cases, such as challenges to Mr. Obama’s health care law.

Judge blocks Alabama immigration rule on mobile homes, The Guardian, 12.12.11
A federal judge temporarily blocks part of Alabama’s discriminatory anti-immigrant law, one which would have required residents to show proof of citizenship when registering their mobile homes with the state.

Occupy Birmingham: Immigrant Rights are crucial to the Occupy movement, Colorlines, 12.7.11
On Saturday, members of the Occupy Birmingham movement marched with other Alabama civic and religious organizations to the Etowah County Detention Center to protest the state’s harsh immigration law, which has been challenged in court as racial profiling, among other things.
Occupy Birmingham says it has a long list of objections to the law, H.B. 56, but it names the jailing of people for profit as one of the factors that ties the Occupy movement with immigrant rights.

Initiative would give California undocumented immigrants safe harbor, Sacramento Bee, 12.3.11
Nearly a million undocumented immigrants could live and work openly in California with little or no fear of deportation under an initiative unveiled Friday by a state legislator and others. Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, is helping to spearhead the measure, called the California Opportunity and Prosperity Act.

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