Human Rights Groups Call For Systematic Monitoring and Greater Transparency in Detention Operations, in Light of Government Report
Report Exposes Non-Compliance with Detention Standards, Gaping Holes in Oversight, and Broken Grievance Procedures
Amy Gottlieb, AFSC-NJ - (973) 643-1924
Jen Nessel, CCR - (212)614-6449
New York—Today, national organizations filed a petition with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create enforceable regulations governing detention standards. If the federal government agrees to the request, DHS will promulgate binding standards for the safety, health, and conditions for thousands of detainees around the country.
Advocates believe DHS regulations governing detention standards will ensure effective protection of detainees human rights. Today’s petition highlights our unconscionable detention system. The reality is that county governments vie for lucrative contracts with the federal government to warehouse non-citizens without any binding standards of care. We hope DHS decides to do the right thing, said Amy Gottlieb, the Program Director of American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program.
The petition was filed soon after the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released on January 16th its long-awaited report on the treatment of detainees held in custody by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The report details the OIG’s findings from its audit, conducted from June 2004 to January 2006, of five detention facilities across the country. Two of the five facilities audited by the OIG were located in New Jersey: the Hudson County Correctional Center and Passaic County Jail. The release of the report has sparked a call among advocates and community members for greater monitoring and oversight of detention operations both on the local and national level.
Among the most significant issues raised in the report released last week is the fact that detainees face significant hurdles when attempting to make complaints about their conditions of confinement. It further points to the current ineffectiveness of ICE’s own annual inspections of detention facilities. The report exposes gaping holes in the protection of detainee rights. We cannot trust the jail officials to address detainees concerns, and we cannot trust ICE to effectively review the jails practices. The New Jersey jails cited in the report ignored detainee grievances, and immigration officials rubber-stamped the jails operations, said Rachel Meeropol, Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Critics state that although the report marks an important step towards improving monitoring and oversight of conditions in immigration detention, it fails to meaningfully examine the breadth and severity of complaints made by detainees to the auditors. We are disappointed that the OIG overlooked many of the routine and egregious violations faced by detainees. We presented the auditors with reports of the jails failure to provide HIV medications for long periods of time and severe instances of abuse by officers and other detainees. These serious concerns are nowhere in the report, said Aarti Shahani, Co-Founder of Families for Freedom, one of the organizations filing today’s petition.
This press release is endorsed by the following organizations:
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
AFSC Immigrant Rights Program, Newark, NJ
Center for Constitutional Rights
Families for Freedom
Justice Interfaith Refugee Action Team
New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee
Prison Committee, Peoples Organization for Progress
Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice, International Human Rights / Rule of Law Project