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Women’s Refugee Commission Welcomes Introduction of Legislation to Protect Human Rights in Short-term Detention Facilities at the Border

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 12, 2013 – Congresswoman Barbara Boxer [D-CA] today introduced the Humane Short Term Custody Act, legislation aimed at improving the standards of treatment for individuals detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The bill focuses in particular on ensuring individuals detained in CBP short-term hold facilities are treated humanely.

“No human being held by United States authorities should ever be exposed to hunger, extreme temperatures, physical or verbal abuse, or denial of medical care,” Senator Boxer said.


“This important bill recognizes that border security and enforcement do not need to come at the expense of humanitarian considerations,” said Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women's Refugee Commission. “Humane treatment of migrants held at our borders during enforcement actions need to be part of the comprehensive approach to border security. This bill stresses the importance of enforcing our existing immigration laws in a manner that is consistent with our basic system of values.”

The Humane Short Term Custody Act creates protections for people held in CBP custody. U.S. citizens as well as migrants applying for admission to our country are routinely held for days in these short-term hold areas in overcrowded or freezing rooms, with little or no food. This bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to promulgate regulations that establish minimum standards for CBP custody. These regulations would cover basic humane treatment, such as the provision of food, emergency medical care, translated legal documents, special protections for pregnant women and compliance with DHS sexual abuse reduction policies.

“Rule of law and humane treatment of women, children and families are not mutually exclusive,” said Brané. “At the Women's Refugee Commission, we regularly confront the effects of our existing border policies and practice on women and children though our research and advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. We call on Congress to act quickly to pass the Humane Short Term Custody Act to ensure that persons encountered by CBP are safe, and treated with dignity and respect.”