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Today the U.S. House Immigration Subcommittee will renew its attack on immigrants with a hearing to “examine” the Obama Administration’s updated Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS). From the early comments of Rep. Lamar Smith and his allies, to the very title of the hearing—“Holiday on ICE”—it’s clear that committee Republicans have already made up their minds. It’s not enough to push to deport as many immigrants as possible – they want to make the process even more painful and inhumane.
Two op-eds today attack Republican falsehoods about the immigration detention system, using painful stories to underscore the point that improving conditions in our nation’s civil detention facilities should be about basic human decency, not politics:
In a powerful New York Times op-ed, noted author Edwidge Danticat stated:
These new standards are far from luxurious. They simply help protect basic human rights. The flippant title of the hearing shows a blatant disregard for the more than 110 people who have died in immigration custody since 2003. One of them was my uncle Joseph, an 81-year-old throat cancer survivor who spoke with an artificial voice box. He arrived in Miami in October 2004 after fleeing an uprising in Haiti. He had a valid passport and visa, but when he requested political asylum, he was arrested and taken to the Krome detention center in Miami. His medications for high blood pressure and an inflamed prostate were taken away, and when he fell ill during a hearing, a Krome nurse accused him of faking his illness. When he was finally transported, in leg chains, to the prison ward of a nearby hospital, it was already too late. He died the next day.
An op-ed in The Hill from Annie Sovcik of Human Rights First highlights the author’s personal experience with the realities of the detention system, noting:
As a lawyer, I know immigration detainees. I have observed legal orientations for individuals seeking asylum or facing removal, and I have inspected some of the nation’s 250 different immigration detention facilities to assess whether conditions meet the threshold of basic human rights standards. For years, it has been clear that most do not… At Wednesday’s hearing, members of the House Judiciary Committee should spend less time trying to score political points and more time figuring out how to implement the changes that can make immigration detention facilities safer and more humane. Though there’s room for improvement, ICE has a solid roadmap in place to start that journey. Now is the time for Congress to get on board.
Further resources on abuses in immigration detention:
New York Times series on deaths in immigration custody (May 2008-January 2010)
Washington Post “Careless Detention” series (May 2008)
Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center report, “Dying for Decent Care: Bad Medicine in Immigration Custody” (February 2009)
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “Report on Immigration in the United States: Detention and Due Process” (March 2011)
National Immigrant Justice Center report, “Not Too Late For Reform” (December 2011)
ACLU, “Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention” (October 2011)