IMPROPER PROCEDURES IN US IMMIGRATION DETAINMENT FACILITIES
By: John Nicholas Mandalakas*
A recent report, titled “Invisible in Isolation,” documents the growth of immigration detention facilities and investigates the nature and procedure of the confinement therein.
Facilities used for detaining immigrants in theUnited Statesare equivalent to facilities in which convicted criminals are housed. Many county jails and traditional detention centers are used for these purposes simply by contracting with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
These complexes are characterized by the same features that we associate with traditional prisons – barbed wire and other security measures, confinement to a small area indoors, lack of outside contact, etcetera. While this has been public knowledge for some time, the new report release by The National Immigrant Justice Center and Physicians for Human Rights details the usage of solitary confinement and other strict confinement measures against immigrants.
The report shows that since 2006, Immigrant detention rates have been on the rise. While detention was at about 20,000 immigrants at that time, it has since risen to about 33,000, an over 60% increase. This markedly significant increase in quantity of detainees prompted further investigation that has indicated mistreatment in many cases.
Many facilities restrict outside privileges of the detainees, some going to extremes such as a Facility inCobb,GAwhich limits outdoors activity to once every thirty days, or the Fairfax County Jail which has completely restricted all outdoors activity.
The most troubling find of the report, however, is the usage of solitary confinement on detainees without appropriate justification. Solitary confinement, also commonly referred to as isolation, is when a prisoner is kept in a specific room and removed from all contact (even with fellow detainees and prison staff). This process can last for extended periods and is known to be extremely detrimental to the mental and physical health of prisoners.
The report details many instances of solitary confinement. In some cases, solitary confinement was even implemented on mentally ill detainees. In many examples usage was arbitrary or based on sexual orientation.
ICE, who is responsible for the detention of immigrants, has not provided consistent training or instruction for the facilities with which they have contracted. In fact, they have yet to develop clear regulations on isolation or segregated confinement in general. As a result, immigrants are being mistreated, and, in many cases, have to live in worse detention conditions than even dangerous criminals do. It is time that this unconscionable treatment of immigrants is put to a stop. Most of the immigrants in ICE’s custody are not dangerous criminals, but disadvantaged people seeking to start a new life and to pursue the American Dream. Help to end the injustice. Click here to read the full report and to take action to change current conditions.
*John Nicholas Mandalakas is an intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.