Editorial: Freeing migrant detainees

posted on 10.13.2009 by Lisa

From the Miami Herald:

Seriously ill immigration detainees can’t wait for the reforms announced last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Detained for more than five months at the Glades County Detention Center, Rosemarie has bled daily as a result of a fibroid tumor in her uterus. Early on, the facility had medical records documenting her need for surgery. Yet she remains in a solitary-confinement cell referred to as the “medical ward” without so much as a window for daylight. Rosemarie, who is from Haiti, still awaits surgery.

Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center advocates on behalf of detainees like Rosemarie, who despite being confined in “civil” immigration detention often suffer treatment worse than inmates serving criminal sentences. How many other vulnerable immigrants languish in detention without adequate medical care, their lives at risk until either their cases are resolved or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) manages to fix its detention system?

ICE should release vulnerable detainees — now. It simply is not equipped to address serious medical needs. If it can’t deliver necessary medical care in a timely manner, ICE should not detain people who need such treatment.

No doubt Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano intends to improve conditions in the nation’s dysfunctional immigration jails. Her announcement last week laid out a welcome plan to create what ICE chief John Morton calls a “truly civil detention system.”

While the goal is laudable, changing facilities and penal culture will take time. Meanwhile, ICE should respond to the urgent need for fixes without delay.

More here.

“I thought that when I got to America, I’d be free, but then I was in prison again.”

posted on 04.30.2009 by Lisa

A new report from Human Rights First, on “U.S. Detention of Asylum Seekers: Seeking Protection, Finding Prison”.

In March 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took over responsibility for asylum and immigration matters when the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) was abolished. With this transfer, DHS was entrusted with the duty to ensure that the United States lives up to its commitments to those who seek asylum from persecution. These commitments stem from both U.S. law and international treaties with which the United States has pledged to abide. Yet, those who seek asylum—a form of protection extended to victims of political, religious and other forms of persecution—have been swept up in a wave of increased immigration detention, which has left many asylum seekers in jails and jail-like facilities for months or even years. [...] The U.S. detention system for asylum seekers, which lacks crucial safeguards, is inconsistent with international refugee protection and human rights standards. [...]

More here.