An explosive new report details shocking abuses at federal immigration detention centers. Problems include drastic overcrowding, restricted access to immigration attorneys, filth and inadequate health care. While the report highlights ten specific detention centers (including the Tri-County Detention Center in southern Illinois), the living conditions are deplorable throughout the detention system.
The Detention Watch Network recently issued its report detailing the systemic problems throughout the immigration detention system. The detention system has become a money making profit center for the prison industry. Due to strict immigration laws, individuals placed in removal (deportation) proceedings for virtually any type of criminal activity, no matter how minor, are subject to mandatory detention and ineligible for a bond. This leads to hundreds of thousands of people detained in federal immigration centers every year. The Detention Watch Network, which is an umbrella group consisting of immigration advocates, lawyers and faith communities are saying “enough is enough!”
The reports reveal devastating and disgusting actions that have occurred within these detention centers. One such case is Roberto Medina-Martinez, a 39-year-old immigrant who died in March 2009 at a detention center. Medina-Martinez had a treatable heart defect that medical practitioners failed to treat in time. Another case describes a man with emotional troubles that was put in solitary confinement for months at a time that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has certified as torture. These are not acceptable standards for the U.S. to have when detaining immigrants.
Pedro Guzman, a former detainee shared his experiences with the public stating, “We were treated like animals– held in pod with 64 people, no privacy, eating food that was inedible and constant yelling and disrespect from the officers. We rarely had court dates even after they were already scheduled, and they made it impossible to adjust your status in a legal and efficient way. There is absolutely no justice in the detention system.”
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) joined the Detention Watch Network and is urging detention centers to fully investigate and document all allegations of mistreatment. Speakers have renewed appeals to President Obama to skip reforming the detention centers and just shut them all down. The speakers also “…issued a list of reforms to ensure the safety, dignity and well-being of immigrants held in detention.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, has already taken steps to reform the system, but that has not been enough. Nothing significant has been done to improve conditions for immigrants held in these detention centers in President Obama’s first term since 2009, but supporters are hopeful that the second term will be different. According to DWN, it is important that in Obama’s second term, the president “uplift immigrants instead of lock them up.”
Action needs to be taken to protect the health of immigrants. Rep. Polis appealed to taxpayers in a speech highlighting that taxpayer money should not be wasted in a system that supports torture and holds immigrants in the most egregious of conditions. These detention centers affect all U.S. citizens and immigrants alike. Taxpayer’s money is being funneled to support inhumane holding cells. Once again there is a plea to immigration reform to change the system and not punish the participants. ICE should be prioritizing its immigrant cases and putting them in support programs rather than through a system that are meant to break people.
Detention Watch Network members around the country will be releasing reports about detention centers soon. The public is encouraged to contact local representatives and voice their opinions to better the conditions at these detention centers. Those with questions regarding immigrants who are being detained are encouraged to contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page here.