Human rights groups around the country participated in a National Day of Action yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration Customs and Enforcement's (ICE) 2009 detention reform announcement. Activists called for an end to the human rights abuses in detention centers, the restoration of due process in the enforcement of immigration laws, and the implementation of cost saving alternatives.
Marking the first anniversary of the Obama Administration's announced intent to reform the immigration detention system, today's actions are part of the "Dignity, Not Detention: Preserving Human Rights and Restoring Justice" campaign led by the Detention Watch Network.
Year One Report Card, a joint report released today by human rights groups, reveals that many who are detained still suffer egregious human rights violations while in custody. Immigrants continue to be jailed for months or even years under substandard conditions. Mistreatment by guards, grossly deficient medical care, use of solitary confinement, and limited access to family and counsel remain persistent problems.
Last year, ICE promised to move away from the sprawling network of jails and prisons it uses to detain immigrants toward a less punitive model and take concrete steps to improve conditions of confinement for the nearly 400,000 people detained each year. But according to the report, the agency's reform agenda has been compromised by a growing detention population, internal opposition to reform by local ICE officials, and the expansion of ICE enforcement programs like 287(g), Secure Communities, and the Criminal Alien Program (CAP) that rely on local law enforcement agencies to channel more and more immigrants into the detention system.
"What the Year One Report Card shows is that the steps the Obama Administration has taken this year are not enough to bring about meaningful changes in the lives of immigrants," said Emily Tucker, Policy and Advocacy Director at Detention Watch Network. "Until ICE limits detention to only those rare cases where it has been shown necessary to ensure public safety, the human rights crisis in the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system will persist."
Participants in the National Day of Action called for the restoration of human rights within the detention system, and an end to programs that indiscriminately channel immigrants into the detention and deportation system. Coordinated educational actions occurred across the country in cities including Austin, TX, Freehold, NJ, Minneapolis, MN, Seattle, WA and Trenton, NJ. For a listing of events and cities: click HERE.
The report Year One Report Card: Human Rights & the Obama Administration's Immigration Detention Reforms, co-authored by Detention Watch Network, National Immigrant Justice Center and the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights is available for viewing and download.