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The Women’s Refugee Commission welcomes announcement of DHS finalization of Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Standards

Standards will reduce threat of rape for immigrants in detention

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On February 28, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized the long-awaited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations to protect immigration detainees from sexual assault and abuse in immigration detention. While Congress unanimously passed the legislation over 10 years ago, enactment and implementation in DHS facilities has repeatedly been delayed.

“PREA regulations are critical in reducing the threat of sexual assault and rape for immigrants in detention, as well as creating more meaningful pathways to recourse and justice for those who are victims of assault,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission's Migrant Rights and Justice program. “The Women's Refugee Commission has strongly advocated for the application of these regulations in immigration detention facilities, and has devoted substantial energy to raising the profile of this issue with policymakers and the public.”

The Women's Refugee Commission is pleased that these rules have finally been issued, but is disappointed that DHS did not include all recommended provisions for protecting immigrants being held in detention and that the rules are in some places weaker than those finalized by the Department of Justice last year. Improvements are needed to protect detainees against retaliation and during transport, and more through and frequent auditing is needed, for example. Timely implementation of the standards remains particularly critical. This includes regular, independent audits of DHS facilities, comprehensive training for facility and agency officials, and ensuring that local officials are held accountable in ensuring that cases of assault are properly investigated and victims have access to justice.

“We had hoped the final rules would include much needed additional protections,” says Brané, “but this is a very important step forward in recognizing that immigrant detainees need protection.”

Additionally, while these regulations protect immigrants in DHS detention facilities, the Women's Refugee Commission is still waiting for regulations to protect migrant children who are under the separate custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“The Women's Refugee Commission will continue to fiercely advocate for HHS to develop standards to protect children in their facilities from sexual assault,” said Brané. “We very much look forward to working with DHS in ensuring proper roll-out and implementation of their new regulations.”


Michelle Brané is available to comment at 646.717.7191.