Latina Advocates to Congress: Immigration Detention Looks like Jail, Not Vacation
Yesterday, some members of House Judiciary Committee continued their attacks on immigrants by trying to compare immigration detention to a luxury vacation.
on ICE” the hearing took aim at new detention rules (2011 Performance-Based
National Detention Standards) released by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) last month. During the hearing, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and
others criticized humane detention conditions as too costly to implement, a
claim that ignores both the realities of detention and the alternatives.
“We cannot put a price tag
on human rights and human dignity,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive
director of theNational Latina Institute for Reproductive Health(NLIRH). “Furthermore, if we were
truly concerned about costs—rather than looking for opportunities to attack
immigrants—we would spend far less money on immigration detention facilities
that look like jails, spend more time exploring more humane and lower-security
options, and ultimately recognize that alternatives to detention are what make
the most sense from both a budgetary and human rights standpoint.”
NLIRH was instrumental in
getting a women’s health section added to these new standards which recommends
that women have access to basic feminine hygiene products, routine
gynecological and obstetric care, contraception, and pregnancy services including
pre- and post-natal care and abortion care. The standards also outline a rule
to prevent shackling of pregnant women “absent truly extraordinary
This hearing comes as
immigration detainees continue to suffer human rights abuses.More than 120detainees have died in ICE
custody since 2003, includingVictoria Arellano, who died of AIDS after
two months of being denied treatment in immigration detention. There have been
shackled. These kinds of abuses are suffered by many of the more than 30,000
individuals in immigration detention each day—a population that includes asylum
seekers, individuals with refugee status, and evenU.S. citizens.
The detention standards
under discussion at the hearing were designed to introduce a modicum of
humanity into immigration detention. While the standards fall short in many
ways, including protecting against sexual assault, they nevertheless represent
a major improvement for the predominately Latino detainee population,
particularly for women.
Though the implementation of
these standards is ongoing, NLIRH applauds the Administration for continued
efforts to improve living conditions in immigration detention and urges
immediate, full implementation and enforcement of these standards.