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Senators Menendez, Gillibrand Introduce Immigration Detention Reform Legislation

by Lynn Tramonte on 07/30/2009 at 9:00pm

Today, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced two bills which seek to improve deplorable conditions in immigration detention and prevent U.S. citizens from being locked up by mistake.

S. 1550, the “Prevent Detainee Deaths and Abuse Act” and S. 1549, the “Protect Citizens from Unlawful Detention Act,” would drastically improve the plight of detained immigrants– and even U.S. citizens.  These bills would require that immigration jails meet minimum standards like ensuring that U.S. citizens aren’t mistakenly detained, children are considered for humanitarian release, and detainees have access to adequate medical care and legal counseling. 

These are pretty basic standards, but ones that the Bush-era immigration enforcement regime consistently failed to meet, and that the Obama Administration hasn’t acted on either.

According to Senator Menendez, the bill’s lead sponsor:

“No American citizen ever deserves to be thrown into detention and have their freedom taken away for no reason, but this sort of thing is happening far too often. People who were born right here in the United States of America have been taken into custody without knowing why, and in some cases, kicked out of the land they call home to countries completely foreign to them. At the same time, people who are thrown into detention are being refused basic medical treatment for conditions that can become deadly. These are fellow human beings who haven’t committed any sort of violent crime, yet they are being treated as subhuman, even in the United States of America. Let’s make it clear – a detention should never amount to a death sentence. These legislative initiatives will help reinforce what our great country has always stood for: liberty, the rule of law and basic human rights.”

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