FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Jacqueline Esposito, 202-393-1044 ext 223; jesposito [at] detentionwatchnetwork [dot] org; Andrea Black, 520-240-3726; ablack [at] detentionwatchnetwork [dot] org
The Detention Watch Network (DWN) calls for immediate action by the Obama Administration in response to the grave abuses of power and efforts to conceal the deaths and mistreatment of immigrants in ICE custody reported by the New York Times on January 9th, 2010. The report provides detailed accounts of ICE’s failure to provide adequate medical care, and reveals that when pressed for information, agency officials’ stonewalled the media and engaged in closed-door discussions to devise plans to avoid public scrutiny. In at least one case, ICE officials misled the public by attributing an individual’s death to a “chronic and irreversible medical condition” rather than disclosing the actual cause of death: traumatic brain injury resulting from unexplainable head injuries that the individual suffered while in ICE custody. In another case, ICE officials mischaracterized an individual’s criminal record to justify his lengthy detention despite his medical condition.
The Obama administration has vowed to overhaul immigration detention, a patchwork of privately run jails, federal facilities and county cells where the government holds noncitizens in immigration proceedings. We have now learned that the some of the same officials responsible for implementing reform initiatives were involved in these reported cover-up efforts. “The conduct unveiled by the New York Times appears to be pervasive throughout the agency and is inconsistent with the President’s promise of transparency and accountability. As we approach the one year anniversary of the new administration taking power, little has changed and lives are still literally at stake. We are calling for an independent investigation into the allegations reported by the New York Times and immediate action to address the lack of oversight and accountability at DHS,” said DWN Steering Committee Chair, Amy Gottlieb of the American Friends Service Committee.
The sub-standard medical treatment of immigration detainees is just one example of the impact of detention on immigrants and their families. The United States detains over 330,000 people per year in immigration detention, including thousands of asylum seekers and legal permanent residents with close family and community ties. Detained immigrants are often held in remote locations far from their families and have no right to government appointed counsel. Those detained include entire families, -- parents with young children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women in jail-like conditions. Detainees languish in a system that lacks enforceable standards of care and any independent oversight.
The shocking report is further evidence of the critical need for independent oversight of DHS and legally enforceable standards governing detention conditions. “Sadly, this confirms that ICE is an agency plagued with a culture of deception and secrecy which has resulted in serious human rights abuses,” said Andrea Black, Network Coordinator, Detention Watch Network. “The Department of Homeland Security’s announced reform efforts are meaningless unless there is a fundamental shift in the way the agency operates, governed by enforceable standards and appropriate oversight of the agency’s authority which has long been unfettered. It is unrealistic to expect that officials involved in the cover-up of previous abuses can lead a true reform effort.”
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a coalition of community, faith-based, immigrant and human rights service and advocacy organizations and concerned individuals working to reform the immigration detention and deportation system so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment.
For more information and an interactive map of ICE detention centers, go to www.detentionwatchnetwork.org