Washington, D.C. – Today, the Department of Homeland Security
announced that it would increase staffing related to oversight of the immigrant
detention system. DHS is adding new national and regional officials who will
help monitor the detention centers and report potential issues. This comes in
response to a series of illegal detentions – and even deportations – of U.S.
citizens and legal permanent residents, as well as the lack of basic medical
care in detention facilities.
U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have introduced legislation meant to reform detention
policies, protect citizens and permanent residents and ensure basic medical
care for detainees (more info: http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=316567&).
Today, they said that the announcement signals good first steps, but that
fundamental changes to the detention system are still urgently needed.
“I certainly welcome these first steps
toward more effective oversight of our detention system,” said Menendez.
“Still, a dramatic overhaul of
detention policy is needed to ensure the elimination of the egregious abuses
that we’ve seen. The quickest and surest way to stop the detention and
deportation of U.S. citizens and to stop the inhumane treatment of our fellow
human beings in detention is with new rules that ensure due process, and I hope
to see those either from DHS or through legislation.”
“I commend the Administration for taking initial steps to reform the
immigration detention system, which has had a number of lapses in due process
and humane treatment that have resulted in deaths due to untreated medical
conditions,” said Gillibrand.
“I have worked with Dr. Schriro, who has been tapped to lead the new Office of
Detention Policy and Planning (ODPP). She is enthusiastic and deeply
engaged in improving due process and focusing on vulnerable cases, such as
pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children. I am hopeful that the Department
will implement all the necessary improvements, and I will continue to work in
partnership with Secretary Napolitano and her team, as well as Senator
Menendez, in providing oversight and appropriate legislation to ensure that the
U.S. immigration detention system complies with the standards that we expect in
Menendez believes DHS should institute new policies to bring the
detention system into the 21st century by:
- implementing cost-saving community-based alternatives to
detention programs that provide community supervision to ensure individuals
show up to their immigration hearings
- ensuring that U.S. citizens and other vulnerable populations
such as the seriously ill and pregnant women who don’t pose a danger to the
community are quickly informed of their rights and considered for release by a
- creating enforceable detention conditions regulations to
ensure detainees are treated humanely and
- cutting contracts with facilities that don’t comply with