In order to address the immigrant detention crisis, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement each commissioned reports from independent, expert advisory committees. Those recommendations are now in.
The results were not surprising to observers: immense numbers of non-criminal immigrants, including families and children, are being shuffled around and stuffed into prisons, private detention facilities and county jails wherever they can fit. The situation violates their due process rights, is dangerous and harmful, and is largely unnecessary.
The expert panel ICE hired, called the Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers, urged ICE to “operationalize the presumption that detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families — and that detention or the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management are never in the best interest of children.”
Despite this unanimous recommendation by experts it had itself paid for advice, ICE immediately renewed its contract to detain families from Central America in a for-profit detention facility in Dilley, Texas, and actually expanded its use of private prisons by adding a new facility in Ohio.
Homeland Security commissioned recommendations from a Homeland Security Advisory Council subcommittee on the question of whether DHS should continue to house immigrants in private prisons and county jails.
Its recommendation, supported by three quarters of the panel, was that DHS should shift away from using private prisons due to grave concerns about conditions and the governance of the facilities. Moreover, nearly all members agreed that DHS should limit its use of county jails to situations where the immigrant would be held for less than 72 hours. Finally, the DHS should make extensive reforms to its inspection and monitoring. Unfortunately, there’s no sign that DHS has moved to implement the recommendations.
Why have immigration authorities decided to continue warehousing innocent families in prison-like detention facilities without due process of law? There are a wide variety of alternatives available. For example, ICE’s own pilot program, the Family Case Management Program, was successful at meeting the government’s needs without the use of detention — or even ankle monitoring.
What could convince ICE and Homeland Security to stop treating immigrants like prisoners with no legal rights? Only time will tell.