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@NIJC on New Federal Detention Standards

March 2, 2012

via National Immigrant Justice Center


Contact: Tara Tidwell Cullen
(312) 660-1337


ICE’s Lack of Implementation Timeline for Midwest Jails and Refusal to Apply Prison Rape Elimination Act Protections Leave Immigrants at Risk

CHICAGO (March 1, 2012) – Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) welcomes the announcement that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released a long-awaited set of new immigration detention standards intended to address critical human rights concerns in the system. Unfortunately, the new standards do not go far enough to protect the rights of all ICE detainees, and ICE has yet to commit to a timeline for implementation that will ensure immigrants are protected from abuse, neglect, and inhumane conditions.

“We have waited several years for these standards, and we are pleased to find they contain some key improvements for which human rights groups have long advocated,” said NIJC Policy Director Jane Zurnamer. “But these standards mean nothing if they are not implemented or enforceable. Lack of certainty around their implementation at all facilities makes them little more than another weak nod to detention reform from the Obama administration.”

ICE announced a timeline during which it will seek to renegotiate contracts with facilities for inclusion of the new standards, known as the 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards. Excluded from the immediate timeline, however, are county jails that hold ICE detainees and criminal inmates. Such facilities hold ICE detainees in the Midwest and were the target of NIJC’s December 2011 report Not Too Late For Reform. The report calls for the closure of the Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois, Jefferson County Detention Center in Mount Vernon, Illinois, and Boone County Detention Center in Burlington, Kentucky, due to the jails’ failure to comply with earlier versions of the ICE standards.

“Congress must pass legislation that includes enforceable protections that fit the civil nature of the immigration system and provisions to punish jails that do not comply,” Zurnamer said. “The Prison Rape Elimination Act is one example of legislation that could provide real protection for immigrants if it were applied to individuals in immigration custody.”

Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in 2003 with the intention of ensuring safety from sexual violence for all detainees in the United States. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security has refused to apply the law to immigration detention facilities. NIJC and a broad coalition of immigrant and prisoner rights groups are demanding that the Obama administration include immigrants in PREA’s protections when the law takes effect this year.

Link to this statement:

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit

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