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Detention Watch Network Responds to Senate Immigration Bill

April 19, 2013




Detention Watch Network Encouraged by Possibility of Immigration Reform
Calls for Fundamental Reform of the Detention System

Washington, DC – Immigration detention provisions in the much-anticipated Gang of Eight’s immigration bill signal progress on long overdue reforms of the unjust and inefficient system, according to the Detention Watch Network (DWN). DWN is particularly pleased to see that all immigrants would be considered for alternatives to detention. However, not fully repealing mandatory detention is a missed opportunity to realign our nation’s policies with our fundamental values of fairness and due process, the groups says. In addition, the bill includes provisions that expand the overall net of supervision, which will ultimately lead to more detentions and deportations.

The bill includes progress in several key detention-related provisions, including:

  • Requiring DHS to consider the use of alternatives to detention for all immigrants, except those suspected of terrorist activities. This means that individuals subject to mandatory detention will now be eligible for alternatives programs.
  • Redefining “alternatives” to include community-based and NGO models.
  • Requiring DHS to make all its contracts with detention facilities contingent on compliance with ICE’s detention standards, and requiring the imposition of financial penalties for any facility found to be in violation of those standards.
  • Requiring that, within 72 hours of detaining someone, ICE provide notice to that person of its decision to release or to continue detaining them, and of the reasons for that decision.
  • Appointing counsel for unaccompanied minors, those with mental disabilities, and other especially vulnerable individuals.
  • Requiring legal orientation programs at every facility.

Yet, there are still several points of concern relating to the immigration detention system, such as:

  • Excluding people with criminal convictions from the legalization process. This leaves those individuals vulnerable to detention and deportation.
  • Expansion of the category of former offenses that can cause a person to be subject to detention and deportation, even after they have already served the sentence for the underlying offense.
  • Drastic expansion of Operation Streamline, a mandatory prosecution program that funnels thousands of people into segregated for-profit immigrant prisons.
  • A lack of independent oversight of detention. The standards that facilities must comply with are written by ICE and compliance is monitored by ICE, with no third party oversight.
  • The detention bed quota – requiring that ICE fill every detention bed every day – remains in place. This will prevent ICE from actually carrying out the new directive to consider alternatives to detention for all immigrants.
  • Mandatory detention is still the law, meaning broad categories of immigrants can still be locked up without so much as a bond hearing.
  • The further militarization of the border will lead to more violence against immigrants and further criminalization of border communities.

“We are encouraged that the bill includes important changes to the immigration detention system, including the opportunity for people subject to mandatory detention to be supervised in less punitive and inhumane settings. However, the overall goal of these changes must be to reduce the use of detention drastically. This is not possible without the repeal of mandatory detention.” said Andrea Black, Executive Director, of Detention Watch Network. “In order for immigrants to benefit fully from the proposed changes, a moratorium on detentions and deportations should be in place until the process is complete.”

To push for more accountable, moral, and balanced immigration reform, DWN has joined CAMBIO, a coalition of 12 groups advocating for laws and policies that create a fair system for immigrants to become citizens; bans indefinite detention; guarantees due process for everyone in the United States; makes enforcement systems accountable; protects civil and human rights; encourages a better border to protect the quality of life in the borderlands, prevents the abuse of vulnerable Americans; and keeps families together.

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