Announcement of increased oversight is encouraging, does not do enough to end rampant abuse at immigration detention centers

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, March 16, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) announced an inspection program aimed at holding accountable two agencies who have long skirted their responsibility to meaningfully care for the well-being of immigrants in their custody: Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The new program promises unannounced inspections designed to monitor the Department of Homeland Security’s compliance with official government health, safety, and detention standards.

This initiative is a direct result of sustained advocacy efforts by immigrant rights groups across the country. The failed oversight of detention facilities was recently detailed in two reports co-authored by Detention Watch Network, Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention and Lives in Peril: How Ineffective Inspections Make ICE Complicit in Immigration Detention. These reports show the culture of secrecy and broken inspection processes that plague the system, resulting in egregious abuses and even deaths at immigration detention centers.

“In no uncertain terms, ICE has proven time and again they are not capable of caring for people in their custody,” said Mary Small, Policy Director at Detention Watch Network. “While this is a step in the right direction, we urge DHS OIG to adopt our recommendation to interview detained immigrants, as well as other stakeholders, during inspections to capture the range of concerns that may not be reported through formal institutional channels.”

The first inspections took place yesterday. DHS OIG pledged to examine conditions periodically, especially in facilities where minors are present, and publish their findings publicly. We hope these inspections will mark a significant shift from the current inspections process which is not independent, and which often fails to identify even well-documented problems and abuse.

“It is essential that DHS OIG, responsible for the oversight of this program, have the power to enact meaningful consequences when violations of the standards or other abuses are found, including terminating contracts with facilities with egregious or repeat violations” said Small.  

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Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.