E-NEWS - 2011

Historic Congressional Briefing: The Need to Protect Immigration Detainees


Rep. Scott speaks
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), one of the original sponsors of PREA.

Yesterday afternoon, JDI reiterated one of its core beliefs at a packed Congressional briefing in Washington, DC: when the government removes someone's freedom, it takes on an absolute responsibility to protect that person's safety. 

 The bipartisan briefing challenged the Department of Homeland Security's position that its facilities are not governed by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Witnesses demonstrated that Congress always intended PREA to apply to these facilities and that full implementation of PREA is the single best opportunity in modern U.S. history to end the crisis of sexual abuse in immigration detention.

Rep. John Kaneb speaks in support of PREA and immigration detention centers
John Kaneb of the National 
Prison Rape Elimination Commission.

"Most Americans would agree that immigration detainees, the majority of whom have committed no crime, must have the same protections from sexual abuse as all other prisoners. The widespread sexual abuse in immigration detention, most often committed by the government officials we pay to keep detainees safe, must end now," said Chris Daley, JDI's Deputy Executive Director.   

Yesterday's briefing -- co-presented by JDI, Congressmen Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), former members of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), and allies from the Women's Refugee Commission, Human Rights Watch, the National Immigrant Justice Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union -- delivered a unified, bipartisan message to the packed audience: the right of detainees to be safe must never depend on which government agency happens to hold them. 


There was standing room only at the briefing.
Witnesses at the briefing refuted the Department of Homeland Security's claim that its own internal policies to prevent sexual abuse in its facilities are enough to keep detainees safe. Representative Scott made clear that Congress always intended PREA to apply to immigration detention facilities, while JDI highlighted the horrific consequences of sexual abuse to survivors.  


Cynthia Totten
Cynthia Totten, JDI's Senior Program Director shared survivor testimony.

This briefing formed part of JDI's intense effort to ensure that PREA covers immigration detention. JDI supporters have a role to play as well. JDI, Human Rights Watch, and 34 allied organizations just sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to protect the safety of immigration detainees. You can help reinforce that message by e-mailing the White House, stating: "I agree with Just Detention International; stop sexual abuse in immigration detention now." Go here to email the President. 


As always, thank you for your incredible support in the fight against sexual abuse in detention! 



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