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Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Sen. Kamala Harris bills to place moratorium on ICE detention centers

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The bill, titled Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act, will monitor the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Indian American women lawmakers Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Sen. Kamala Harris on Tuesday introduced a new bill to monitor the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers in the United States.

The bill, titled Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act, aims to keep a close watch of the ICE detention centers and proposes to halt the funding for any new construction, and expansion of such facilities.

According to the two Democrats, over the last two decades, the number of non-citizens held at ICE detention centers in the United States has increased by 400 percent and the inmates of these centers include women, children and pregnant women.

The bill’s text also says that these inmates are often mistreated by the ICE agents and are forced to live in deplorable conditions, in violation of their basic rights.

“Even though the U.S. already houses the largest immigrant detention system in the world, the Trump Administration wants more detention beds without any oversight,” said Jayapal in an official release posted on her website.

“The countless number of horrific assaults, senseless abuses and needless deaths of immigrants in detention prove that ICE isn’t able to police itself. Our bill demands a higher accountability of ICE and a stop to detention expansion because our nation doesn’t need more violence and further militarization – what we need is comprehensive and humane reform and real accountability,” she added.

“ICE’s indiscriminate approach to immigration enforcement continues to sow fear and anxiety in communities across the nation and strict oversight is long overdue,” said Harris.

“It is unconscionable to subject detainees to inhumane conditions that include cases of unchecked sexual abuse, outright medical negligence, lack of access to counsel, and in some cases, even death. It’s time to end the expansion of these facilities that divert these resources to address true public safety threats,” she added.

The data released by the Department of Homeland has revealed that the rights of the detainees in the detention camps are violated in ways that is inexplicable and are living in unhygienic and unsafe environment.

Some of the unjust consequences include:

  • Sexual Abuse: Between FY12 and March 2018, ICE received 1,448 allegations of sexual abuse in detention facilities. Only a small percent of these claims have been investigated.
  • Medical Negligence: While in ICE custody, detainees regularly receive substandard care. Pregnant women in particular receive insufficient medical attention while in custody, resulting in dehydration and even miscarriages. In FY17 alone, at least three women reportedly miscarried while in ICE custody.
  • Access to Counsel: Detainees often struggle to secure representation due to language barriers, wait times in detention facilities, and distance between detention facilities and government-provided aid, all of which raise serious due process concerns.
  • Deaths: There have been over 170 reported deaths in ICE custody since 2003.

The new bill tabled by Jayapal and Harris require the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to submit a report to Congress that includes a plan to decrease the number of detention beds by 50 percent of the number available as of the date of the enactment of this Act by using alternatives to detention that are less costly to the taxpayer and have been shown to be successful.

It also proposes restoring and expanding the Family Case Management Program, and calls for DHS’ Office of Inspector General to conduct unannounced inspections of all immigration detention facilities to ensure compliance with national standards, focusing on the health, safety and care of detainees, especially as it relates to pregnant women. The DHS OIG will be required to submit a report of its findings to Congress.

Jayapal and Harris also recommend the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to conduct similar investigations, and submit a report of its findings to Congress.

“Through our network of visitation programs and our hotline, we’ve documented countless stories of detained individuals who’ve been abused by ICE and private prison companies. The abuses range from sexual assault to forced labor to medical neglect and even death. These inhumane conditions have become the status quo in the U.S. immigration detention system and we refuse to tolerate it,” said Christina Fialho, a California attorney and co-founder/executive director of Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC).

“Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s bicameral bill, the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act, builds upon the Dignity Not Detention Act, our groundbreaking legislation passed in California last year. But states alone cannot change this massive system. It’s time for the federal government to step in and demand transparency and accountability. It’s time for us to be done with immigration detention.”

“Time and time again, ICE has proven itself incapable of comporting with basic civil and human rights—especially when it comes to overseeing its massive immigration detention infrastructure,” said Madhuri Grewal, Federal Immigration Policy Counsel for the ACLU. “Through our litigation, advocacy, and reporting, the ACLU has consistently found ICE to flaunt its own minimal detention standards and continually detain immigrants who are pregnant and asylum seekers, have mental disabilities, and other vulnerable populations—often in facilities operated by private prison companies. Even worse, ICE is charged with self-monitoring—a process that has allowed the agency to ignore or dismiss egregious violations and contributed to multiple deaths in detention. These horrific conditions, in combination with the massive rise in ICE detention since the late 1990s, have led to an agency that needs serious systematic change. This bill from Senator Harris and Representative Jayapal—which imposes a moratorium on further expansion, moves to cut the number of detention beds used by ICE, and includes critical oversight and accountability measures for violations—is an important step forward.”

The DONE Act is supported by National Immigration Justice Center, Moms Rising, UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza), Women’s Refugee Commission, Human Rights Watch, American Civil Liberties Union, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Immigration Hub, Church World Service, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Network Lobby for Social Change, Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, OneAmerica, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant Refugee Rights, Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC), Washington CAN, and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

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