Menendez, Gillibrand and Kennedy Introduce Bills to Stop Immigrant Detainee Abuse
Friday, July 31, 2009 at 1:19 pm
Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Thursday responded to a growing number of reports about the poor conditions of immigration detention centers that violate the Department of Homeland Security’s own rules. On Thursday they introduced the the “Protect Citizens from Unlawful Detention Act” and “Prevent Detainee Deaths and Abuse Act,” which would increase the government’s requirements to inform people arrested of their rights and that they’re treated humanely in detention. Earlier this year, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Fla.) introduced a similar bill in the House.
In recent months, reports from Amnesty International USA, the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, the National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the law firm of Holland & Knight have found, following exhaustive studies, that while the number of immigrants in detention has tripled from 1996, detainees often don’t get hearings to determine if their detention is warranted; detention conditions violate “basic human rights and notions of dignity”, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency in many cases doesn’t even follow its own rules governing detention centers and conditions.
The bills would require DHS to issue enforceable rules governing detention in 15 different areas, including access to medical care, telephones, the treatment of children and other particularly vulnerable populations, and the use of force against detainees. A Detention Commission would conduct investigations and report on compliance.
“Having met with dozens of detained immigrants across the United States, it is clear that the one consistency is the utter disregard for their humanity,” said Sarnata Reynolds, AIUSA’s policy and campaign director for refugee and migrant rights, in a statement released yesterday. “These bills protect the dignity of those in the detention system by requiring that they be detained based on individual circumstances, not blanket policies that tear families apart without any consideration for the consequences.”
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