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Women’s Refugee Commission Applauds Reps. Smith and Jayapal for Introducing Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Smith (D-WA) and Jayapal (D-WA) along with numerous co-sponsors, introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act. The bill would provide much needed reform to a broken immigration detention system by increasing transparency, requiring improved detention standards, and implementing more stringent oversight. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would also ensure that immigrants are not detained arbitrarily and without recourse. Today, countless immigrants in our growing detention system pose no risk to public safety or to national security, and yet they are detained because of arbitrary mandatory detention laws or political decisions.

 A report published by Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) yesterday documents – based on visits to seven detention centers, interviews with nearly 150 detained women, and a review of government data – that our detention system, and the policies underlying it, fundamentally fail women seeking asylum in the United States. WRC found an alarming increase in the number of women and asylum-seeking women who are in detention, including some who are separated from their children, as well as that detention practices – both treatment and conditions – ignore the needs of women and impede access to protection.

WRC also joined several civil and human rights organizations last week to file an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on behalf of women who are or were detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The complaint expressed grave concerns about ICE’s failure to implement its own policy limiting the detention of pregnant women as well as concerns about detention conditions and inadequate medical care reported by detained women.

Katharina Obser from WRC made the following statement:

“Women’s Refugee Commission is proud to endorse this critical legislation and applauds Representatives Smith and Jayapal for their commitment to fixing this country’s costly and broken immigration detention system. As our report, Prison for Survivors, illustrates all too clearly, current policies and practices fail those who are legally seeking protection within the U.S. by locking up asylum seekers and others who pose no risk to society in a growing and costly system of jails and private prisons that punish rather than protect. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would ensure that many of the women we spoke to during our research could pursue their asylum cases from within the community instead of from detention, and that our detention system would finally see the reform and oversight it so desperately needs.”

WRC’s report, Prison for Survivors, and the complaint filed with DHS can be found here.