On any given day, there is an estimated 33,000 individuals under the detention authority of Immigration Customs Enforce (ICE). Annually the number of detained immigrants totals 390,000. Many of these detainees have suffered terrible persecution in their home countries and faced appalling hardships in coming to the United States. At minimum the Department of Homeland Security could ensure their safety and security in detention centers. Unfortunately, they are failing to do so.
NPR recently noted that in the past five years, over 200 immigrants have filed complaints of sexual abuse while detained by ICE. The NPR also noted a particular case of a man in which a Chicago officer failed to act after he was notified of the sexual abuse of a detained immigrant. Detained immigrants that are being sexually abused are regularly requesting HIV tests and medical exams, but DHS has been slow to comply with their requests. The International Business Times highlighted other aspects brought to light by the Immigrant Justice Center and the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights.. Given that detained immigrants are often in the same detention facilities as common criminals, they are often treated as targets in the state controlled prison system. As ICE increases its deportation efforts through a myriad of programs including Secure Communities, they are forced to contract with state and local authorities, in addition to private companies, to handle the increase in the detained immigrant population. The Corrections Corporations of America, a private company that runs detention centers, was specifically signaled out as they have a “record of egregious human right violations including the death of an immigrant detainee and incidents of sexual abuse, even as its profits have grown in past years.”
In addition, near the end of the year it appears that ICE has forgotten to focus on criminal aliens and instead is arresting any overstays or final orders in an attempt to meet their quota for the year. Also ISAP officers who are contractors refuse to remove electronic gear on ankles and have burdensome reporting requirements that conflict with the ability of the person to hold a job. All this appears to favor their own budget over the well-being of the nation and risk of flight issues.
The detention centers that are operated by ICE aren’t much better. In spite of a new federal law that attempts to increase the security of inmates in federal and state prisons, the DHS is actively seeking an exemption for their detention centers.
With immigrant detainees often transported to remote locations where they have both logistical and financial difficulties in receiving legal representation, this problem is only going to increase. The United States has always prided itself as being a country that allows for humanitarian forms of relief. The sexual abuse that these immigrants have faced in detention centers is an egregious violation of what this country stands for.