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Rights Groups Find ICE Detention Reforms Lacking

The ACLU and other immigrants rights groups called today for an overhaul of the immigration detention system, one year after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement first announced major reforms.

Some groups were skeptical when the reform measures were announced, arguing they would not go far enough in fixing the detention system. So far, the reforms have proved insufficient, according to the ACLU and Detention Watch Network. The ACLU released a report (PDF) today on the shortcomings of ICE’s detention reform in its first year. Their main complaint is with the steadily rising number of detainees, who the ACLU said often “pose no flight risk or danger to public safety.”

The ACLU also advised ICE to improve its practices and oversight for mental disability, health care and sexual assault in the detention system. Detention Watch Network said these areas have not been adequately improved by ICE reform in the past year:

ICE has also appointed “detention managers” to work in 42 facilities and hired experts in detention management and health care. However, their presence has meant little change for detained immigrants. For example, a detention manager was working at the Hutto facility at the time the sexual assaults occurred, calling into question the detention managers’ ability to adequately oversee detention operations.

The groups said ICE should increase its reform efforts by ending expansion of its detention program, establishing uniform standards for detention facilities and reviewing problems with health and sexual abuse.

ICE has not yet replied to calls for comment.

Update: Gilliam Brigham, a spokeswoman for ICE, responded with the following statement:

Over the past twelve months, ICE has made significant progress translating the principles of reform into innovative, practical and timely solutions. This past year has been one of analysis and development. We’ve had time to thoughtfully review the system and develop policies and plans that will allow us to enact smart and sustainable reform. Now, we’ve entered a year of action where we are implementing concrete initiatives that will transform immigration detention – for instance, our recent launch of the Online Detainee Locator System.ICE is committed to the detention reform effort and we will continue our work initiating change in the short term while paving the way for larger reforms in the future.

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