Agencies Slam United States on Immigration Policies

The Constitution Project (Recommendations for Reforming our Immigration Detention System and Promoting Access to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings) and Human Rights Watch (Locked Up Far Away) detailed reports this week calling for urgent changes to the immigrant detention system.

Through FOIA, the HRW found 1.4 million detainee transfers from 1999 to 2008, with immigrants frequently transferred like parcels to remote areas away from family, legal counsel and proper medical care.

Often times, these immigrants are unaware of the charges against them and in the process of getting legalized while their families fervently looked for them through the vast detention network. Given that some 39% of people in immigrant detention may have a legal pathway to citizenship, the lack of due process and rate of transfers is appalling. But it is also atrocious to treat immigrants like parcels, boxing and shipping them away as if they are not humans.

In June 2008, Human Rights Watch released a statement saying that immigrants in custody awaiting deportation receive inadequate medical care, and the Department of Homeland Security should be held responsible for any deaths or suffering that occur as a result of negligence. The 12-page submission to the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law highlighted the poor care provided to immigrants living with HIV/AIDS.

Earlier this year, they released a 78-page report detailing the many abuses tolerated by immigrants, especially women, in the detention system. When pregnant women are bound and shackled in detention, we are not just up against the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio but an entire system that sees and treats immigrants as criminals and subhumans undeserving of proper medical care and humane treatment.

Organizations like the The Constitution Project, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International keep releasing scathing critiques of the immigrant detention system while the United States does next to nothing to correct its immigrant rights abuses. The last ‘bright’ idea to do something about immigrant detention came from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano who suggested turning hotels and nursing homes into detention centers, so now immigrants could be detained where they work to make profits for private prisons. Brilliant.

No prizes for guessing whether immigration detention would be part of the much-touted comprehensive immigration reform.

(Photo Credit: Favianna)

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