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Disturbing Reports Suggest Congress Should Fund More DHS Transparency and Accountability, Not More Immigration Detention

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“The facts show that since this administration began implementing its immigration and border policies, the challenge at the border went from bad to worse” – Ur Jaddou

While reports last week suggest Congress may be close to an agreement on humanitarian assistance for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to address border challenges, multiple reports this week clearly exemplify the reason why more money for detention should be rejected in the supplemental appropriations request currently being considered by Congress and any others that may come.   

  • Increasing Deaths in Detention: After more than a decade of no children dying in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), CBP reported yesterday that a fifth child has died in its custody since December. In addition, deaths in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody continue despite reports by the DHS Inspector General identifying serious monitoring and compliance issues.    
  • Increasing Detention Beds Beyond Congressionally Authorized Amounts:  While Congress specifically rejected ICE’s request for 52,000 detention beds in fiscal year 2019, thereby requiring ICE to reduce its daily population to approximately 40,520 by the end of the fiscal year, Buzzfeed reports that ICE is jailing 52,398 immigrants as of yesterday.  
  • Dangerous, Inappropriate, and Abusive Use of Solitary Confinement: NBC News reviewed thousands of uses of solitary confinement by ICE and found:

Only half of the cases [of solitary confinement] involved punishment for rule violations. The other half were unrelated to disciplinary concerns — they involve the mentally ill, the disabled or others who were sent to solitary largely for what ICE described as safety reasons.

A Guatemalan man spent two months in solitary confinement at a county jail in Maryland. The reason: He had a prosthetic leg.

A mentally ill Ukrainian man was put in isolation for 15 days at a detention facility in Arizona. His offense: putting half a green pepper in one of his socks.

In nearly a third of the cases, segregated detainees were determined by ICE to have a mental illness, a population especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of isolation.

  • Dangerous and Criminal Abuse of Authority: Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that a Border Patrol agent was being prosecuted for “intentionally striking” a Guatemalan man who was trying to flee after sending texts just a month before “calling immigrants ‘savages’ and ‘subhuman.’” But this is not an isolated incident, nor the worst case. Among its ranks, the Border Patrol has had a serial killer, an agent who murdered a woman he was romantically involved with and her one-year-old son, a senior agent distributing child pornography and attempting to entice a minor, and other similar cases.  

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said: “The facts show that since this administration began implementing its immigration and border policies, the challenge at the border went from bad to worse: the numbers of border crossers has increased, children have died in CBP custody for the first time in more than a decade, spending on detention has dramatically increased with no end in sight, and worse yet, inhumane conditions in detention remain unaddressed. It is time for the Trump administration to be held accountable for its failed policies, many of which have exacerbated problems. These disturbing reports of death, abuse, and failed strategies suggest Congress should be funding and requiring more transparency and accountability, not more detention and shoveling good money after bad on unsuccessful Trump administration policies. Congress has already given Trump’s border policies more money than they deserve and the President has redirected other money and personnel to his failed border strategy and his border wall vanity project. Congress must use its appropriations authority to rein in this administration and ensure transparency and accountability, especially now as it considers the administration’s insatiable demand for border spending, including the current supplemental appropriations request.”