Washington, D.C. (Nov. 19, 2013) — Detention Watch Network released a report Tuesday, “Expose and Close, One Year Later: The Absence of Accountability in Immigration Detention,” documenting the current state of the U.S. immigration detention system.
The report highlights increased deaths and suicides, subpar medical and mental healthcare, inedible food, and arbitrary restrictions on visitation and access to legal resources. While the congressional debate on immigration reform ensues, the mass detention of immigrants across the U.S. has been largely ignored.
In response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) inaction in terminating contracts with facilities that keep immigrants in appalling conditions, DWN is calling on ICE to close the worst detention centers which are highlighted in the report and release those immigrants to their loved ones and their communities.
DWN also calls on Congress to repeal mandatory detention and end the Congressionally-mandated bed quota, which forces ICE to hold 34,000 immigrants in detention daily.
“With this latest report, Detention Watch Network has again exposed how the arbitrary detention bed mandate enacted by Congress does not make our nation safer, our immigration system more accountable, or our government more efficient,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-21). “To the contrary, mandating that ICE keep 34,000 immigrants locked up in private detention centers every day has only wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, torn apart families, and exposed thousands of low-risk, nonviolent immigrants to unconscionable conditions.”
“Over the last year conditions at immigration jails have only worsened. Continued isolation and inadequate medical and mental health care have lead to needless suffering and in some cases, death,” said Silky Shah, Interim Executive Director at DWN. “ICE can and must terminate contracts at the facilities highlighted in the report and return immigrants to their families and communities.”
Among the report’s findings:
ICE continues to shirk its responsibility on medical and mental health care, leading to detainee deaths, exacerbation of serious mental illnesses, and worsening health conditions.
Immigrants have been thrown into segregation and solitary confinement for “their own protection” (for example, LGBTQ immigrants and mentally ill immigrants).
Family members journey for hours to visit loved ones who are detained, but are often limited to video visitation and other forms of non-contact visits. In some cases, family members are required to pay a fee to “visit” a loved one via video at the facility.
Immigrants are subject to lengthy periods between meals, small portions, and food quality so poor that worm and maggot-infested food has been served.
The release of the report coincides with a national week of action calling attention to conditions at detention centers nationally. Actions and vigils will take place at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, Henderson Detention Center in Nevada, Adelanto Detention Center in California and in Austin, TX.
The Detention Watch Network works through the collective strength and diversity of its members to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.
Link to the report at www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/sites/detentionwatchnetwork.org/files/expose_and_close_one_year_later.pdf.