Flaws in the Immigrant Detention System

According to a recent conference at New York University’s law school, the current detention system for immigrants in the US is a cause for concern and needs more reforms. According to a coalition of immigration advocates speaking at the conference, the latest detention facility in New Jersey is just the latest evidence that reforms at the federal level are just not enough to solve immigration detention issues. According to the group, reforms made have not yet made an impact on the lives of immigrants held in detention facilities.

According to the group, an Essex County detention facility for immigrants is symptomatic of immigration detention issues across the country. The group’s report claims that the Essex County facility does not meet national detention standards, despite the fact that the Obama administration has promised to make reforms to the civil detention system. In 2008 and again in 2011 Immigration and Customs Enforcement released new immigrant national detention standards, including standards that dictate health care, legal assistance, and recreation. According to the coalition’s group the Essex County facility and many other facilities still do not adhere to these standards.

Alina Das is co-director of NYU’s Immigrant Rights Clinic and worked on the reports. She says that conditions in New Jersey for immigrants in detention are a cause for concern. According to the report, more than 200 complaints were made by detainees from Delaney Hall, a privately operated immigration detention facility, and the Essex County Correctional Facility, which has recently been expanded. According to the report, some of the grievances were serious violations that affected the rights to basic services, such as health care and food. Detainees also reported problems with accessing worship services and attorneys. Many of the grievances suggested that the facilities do not meet ICE standards for immigrant detainees.

Das has stated that an additional concern is that Essex County and ICE have reached a new agreement with federal immigration authorities to expand the New York facility as well as a new facility in Texas’ Karnes City. While the new facilities are being marketed as reform-based and more humane, the current conditions, says Das, raise questions, since the facilities run in Essex County are not model and do not seem to meet ICE standards.

Harold Ort of the ICE has stated that the ICE has made considerable progress in immigration detention reform. Ort noted that the agency has hired over 40 managers to oversee detainees and to conduct regular visits and inspections to ensure that the facilities meet ICE standards.