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Women’s Refugee Commission Stands for Protection of Detained Immigrants

Washington, DC – A New York Times articlearticle this morning detailed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is planning to roll back existing detention standards that govern the treatment and conditions of immigrants in ICE custody. Instead, the article reports, ICE plans to use a basic 18-page checklist currently used by the U.S. Marshals Service to evaluate ICE facilities. The article also notes that the agency is planning to eliminate the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, which has served to develop and improve existing standards across the immigration detention system.

The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) is deeply concerned by this planned rollback of what are fundamental basic protections for immigrants in ICE custody. Conditions and oversight in ICE facilities have been notoriously inadequate, but existing standards, particularly the most recent 2008 and 2011 standards, provided more specific guidance relating to meeting basic human needs of detained immigrants. The 2011 standards were the first to more concretely address women’s health needs, one of many areas of immigration detention that had long fallen short and where gaps resulted in trauma and harm to countless detained women. The U.S. Marshals checklist included in the Times article provides little clarity and guidance relating to detention conditions, and makes virtually no reference to the specific needs of women and other especially vulnerable populations.

Today’s news is particularly concerning in light of plans detailed in an internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo reported by the Washington Post yesterday that the agency has identified 21,000 new detention spaces across 27 facilities for potential future contracting.

According to Katharina Obser, Senior Program Officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission:

“It’s alarming that DHS is not only planning to expand detention at such an unprecedented rate, but also plans to do so with virtually no meaningful standards in place. Women’s Refugee Commission has for years documented conditions inside detention facilities across the country, largely finding gaps in the care and custody of detained immigrants. We’ve spoken to countless women who’ve expressed despair over the conditions of their confinement, including inadequate basic medical and mental health care for women who are pregnant or survivors of trauma, and who face countless obstacles to meeting with an attorney. To effectively eliminate current detention standards will leave detained immigrants even more vulnerable to serious harm. Moreover, such a move makes no sense when DHS has always had cost-efficient and effective alternatives to detention programs for individuals the agency finds pose a serious flight risk.”


For more information contact:Tessa Wiseman, tessa@newpartners.comkatharinao@wrcommission.org

Also see WRC’s 10 Things to Know About How Trump’s Executive Order Will Harm Women and Children Seeking Protection here