E-NEWS - 2009

Just Detention International Welcomes Immigration Detention Reform

October 6, 2009 -

The U.S. immigration detention system is in acute need of an overhaul - including improved transparency and respect for the human rights of immigration detainees. As such, the reforms announced today by the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano are important steps in the right direction.

Sexual abuse flourishes in detention facilities that are closed to outside scrutiny; for years, the U.S. immigration detention system has been ruled by secrecy and a lack of transparency. Just Detention International (JDI) hopes that today's announcement is genuine, and that it represents a turning point toward openness and respect for the rights of all detainees, regardless of their citizenship status.

JDI is particularly pleased to see a proposal that non-criminal immigration detainees no longer be housed in jails. Similarly, JDI welcomes a commitment from the Department of Homeland Security to improve the oversight of immigration detention facilities, to make it easier to find where detainees are housed, and to contact them.

While these reforms are encouraging, the Department of Homeland Security needs to take further steps to ensure that sexual abuse is not tolerated in its facilities. In particular, Secretary Napolitano should seek to make the Department of Homeland Security's Performance Based National Detention Standards binding regulations. The Secretary must also ensure that the Department fully implements the national standards released earlier this year by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission.

With enough political will, the federal government can stop the sexual abuse that for years has plagued immigration detention facilities. Because it can, it must. Whenever the government removes someone's liberty, it takes on an absolute responsibility to protect that person's safety.

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