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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Obama Administration Addresses Detention Crisis with Change in Policy

The Department of Homeland Security announced today that it will change the way it conducts oversight and accountability in America’s immigration detention facilities. Specifically, it will make changes to policies regarding an immigrant detention facility in Texas.

In a press release, the National Immigration Forum, the leading immigrant advocacy organization in the country, expressed they were pleased that the administration will take important steps to address immigration detention conditions that are currently a "national embarrassment".

Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, said that the “the single most important thing we can do with regard to immigrant detention is to reduce the need for its use for millions of non-criminals, families, and workers in the first place.”

Noorani added that the we need a functioning legal immigration system -- one that brings millions of immigrants living here illegally into legal status, rather than attempting to enforce our way out of our current situation.

He finished by saying that the Forum “is supportive of the changes announced to the detention system and hope this signals more oversight and accountability throughout DHS and our immigration enforcement system”.

According to the New York Times, among the changes DHS will make is to stop sending families to the notorious T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former state prison near Austin, Texas. The facility was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after news coverage showed young children behind razor wire.

An ACLU lawsuit settled in 2007 brought to light how children under 10 years old were confined for up to a year in “family cells with open toilets, with only one hour of schooling a day”. Children said they were threatened by guards with separation from their parents--many asylum-seekers from around the world. Only after judicial enforcement of the settlement were children granted such “liberties" as "wearing pajamas at night and taking crayons into family cells" said the New York Times.

Although immigration reform advocates see the Administration’s action on the Detention Crisis as a step in the right direction, passage of humane and just immigration reform legislation will offer the only workable solution to our nation’s dysfunctional and unjust immigration system.

For more on the Administration’s immigration detention policy, read the full story at the New York Times by linking here. To read the full release from the National Immigration Forum, please link here

Additional Resources

The Math of Immigration Detention

Summaries of Recent Reports on Immigration Detention 2007 – 2009



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