Immigration Detention: American “Hospitality”

In a statement released February 28, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), responded to the late 2011 release by Immigration and Customs Enforcement of its revised Performance-Based National Detention Standards, calling the manual “a hospitality guideline for illegal immigrants.”

Smith, who chairs the House Immigration Subcommittee, promised to hold oversight hearings on the standards at the end of March.

A recent report submitted by The Advocates for Human Rights to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants describes the human rights violations that pervade the United States’ immigration detention system, including lack of access to necessary medical care and sexual abuse of detainees.

Underlying these human rights violations is a fundamental lack of accountability in the sprawling ICE detention system, which is made up of hundreds of state prisons, local jails, private prisons, and ICE-operated detention centers around the country.

As Greg Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says in The Hill’s blog, “immigration detention is no hospitality suite.”

ICE’s new detention standards do little to enhance U.S. accountability for the human rights of the hundreds of thousands of people detained by ICE and nothing to address the conditions of the many more people detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I’m looking forward to that promised oversight hearing on the ICE detention standards. Perhaps Chairman Smith will address how a system virtually devoid of due process, which denies access to any process to challenge the vast majority of custody decisions, holds people without criminal charge or sentence for indefinite periods of time – often until the person gives up any challenge to the removal from the United States, and which falls outside even the minimal protections promised by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, upholds American values.


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