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Joint letter to DHS Secretary re protecting the safety of immigration detainees - Dec. 2016
December 16, 2016 The Honorable Jeh Johnson Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security Washington, D.C. 20528 Re: Final requests to protect the safety and health of immigration detainees Dear Secretary Johnson: On behalf of the 153 undersigned organizations, we write to urge you to implement the following immigration detention recommendations before the end of this administration. The recommendations below can be implemented before late January and are essential to ensure the safety and protection of immigrants in detention including children, families, and asylum seekers. In fall 2016 two independent expert advisory committees, commissioned directly by DHS and by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), found fundamental failures in the immigration detention system and recommended dramatic changes to the system including: discontinuing family detention; terminating the use of county jails for immigration detention except as brief staging sites; and undertaking a deliberate shift away from reliance on private prisons. The policy recommendations issued by the Homeland Security Advisory Council (“HSAC”) and the ICE Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (“ACFRC”) make clear that continuing the detention status quo is not acceptable. Despite these recommendations, ICE recently entered into a contract with Corrections Corporation of America to expand detention at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center. This expansion, negotiated while HSAC reviewed DHS’ use of private facilities, is unacceptable. We repeat our calls to take immediate action to implement the recommendations presented by the DHS and ICE advisory councils, and to ameliorate the most egregious failings of your agency’s detention system. Specifically we urge you to immediately: 1. End the detention of families, consistent with the top recommendation presented by the ACFRC. 2. Shut down those privately-run detention facilities with the worst detention conditions including: Eloy Detention Facility, Arizona; Otay Mesa Detention Facility, California; South Texas Detention Complex; and Cibola County Correctional Center, New Mexico. 3. Terminate or do not renew contracts with any and all county jails that are not compliant with the 2011 ICE Performance Based National Detention Standards. Nearly all county jails have refused to implement the 2011 detention standards, and the vast majority are bound by only the 2000 detention standards, which offer much less protection to detainees. 1 4. Place a moratorium on any expansion of immigration detention – do not enter into new detention contracts; do not activate additional beds in facilities operated by private prison companies or local jails; and freeze or decrease existing bed capacity across facilities. 5. Expand on the existing national community-based supervision program, currently in use for a small number of families, that provides a humane and cost-effective alternative to detention. These detention policy recommendations correspond with the recommendations made by the advisory committees tasked with evaluating family detention and privatized detention. Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (“ACFRC”) In October 2016 the ACFRC unanimously recommended that ICE “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.” 1 The President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which was represented on the Committee, stated publicly his concern “that the detainment of children and families in these facilities places them at risk of development and mental health problems, which can have long-term implications for a child’s health. These are scared, vulnerable children, and they deserve our compassion and our help.” 2 Yet within days of the ACFRC vote ICE renewed a 2,400-bed contract to continue detaining Central American families in Dilley, Texas through fall 2021. 3 The Dilley contract will continue to be operated by a large for-profit prison corporation. Family detention is unnecessary given the extensive alternatives to detention options. Like previous case management pilot programs, the Family Case Management Program (FCMP) implemented by ICE nearly a year ago has successfully demonstrated that true alternatives to detention can be effective in supporting an individual while accomplishing the government’s interests, without resorting to punitive ankle monitors or physical detention. While such programs should be administered directly by nonprofit community service providers with proven track records of supporting immigrants rather than a private-prison operator, now is the time to allocate ICE funding toward growing programs like the FCMP whose effectiveness has long been proven in pilots conducted by community based organizations. 1 Report of the Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (Oct. 7, 2016), at p. 2, available at http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/sites/default/files/dhs-advisory-committee-on-family-residential-centers.pdf. 2 Women’s Refugee Commission, Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers Passes Recommendations to End Family Detention (Oct. 14, 2016), available at https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/news/press-releases-andstatements/2476-wrc-acfrc-passes-recs. 3 Jamie McGee, “CCA Announces ICE Contract Extension,” The Tennessean, Oct. 18, 2016. 2 Homeland Security Advisory Council (“HSAC”) In August 2016 you commissioned a HSAC Subcommittee to evaluate whether DHS should end the use of private prisons. On December 1 you attended the HSAC meeting where three quarters of HSAC members voted in support of a recommendation that DHS implement a “measured but deliberate shift away from the private prison model” because of grave concerns regarding governance and conditions failures. 4 In addition, nearly all HSAC members voted in support of the recommendation that DHS limit the use of county jails to short-term detention of less than 72 hours, and make robust and extensive reforms to its inspections and monitoring system. 5 We urge you to carry out the recommendations issued by the full HSAC – namely, to shift away from the private prison model and to limit the use of county jails. Our proposed recommendations listed above provide a clear roadmap, and we urge you to act swiftly to implement these necessary detention reforms. Thank you for your consideration. For more information, please contact Heidi Altman from the National Immigrant Justice Center (firstname.lastname@example.org), Katharina Obser from the Women’s Refugee Commission (email@example.com), or Joanne Lin from the American Civil Liberties Union (firstname.lastname@example.org). Sincerely, National Organizations Alianza Americas Alliance for Citizenship America's Voice Education Fund American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) American Friends Service Committee American Immigration Council American Immigration Lawyers Association American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Americans for Immigrant Justice Amnesty International USA Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence 4 See id., also Alan Neuhauser, U.S. News and World Report, Homeland Security Panel Rejects Reliance on Private Prisons to House Immigrants, Dec. 1, 2016, http://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2016-12-01/homeland-securitysplits-with-justice-department-on-private-prisons. 5 Homeland Security Advisory Council, Report of the Subcommittee on Privatized Immigration Detention Facilities (Dec. 1, 2016), available at https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/DHS%20HSAC%20PIDF%20Final%20Report.pdf. 3 Casa de Esperanza, National Latin@ Network Center for Gender & Refugee Studies Church World Service Detention Watch Network Disciples Women El Centro del Inmigrante Enlace Farmworker Justice Friends Committee on National Legislation Grassroots Leadership HIAS Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters - USA, JPIC Human Rights Defense Center Human Rights First Immigrant Defense Project Immigrant Justice Corps Immigrant Legal Resource Center In the Public Interest Just Detention International Justice Strategies Latin America Working Group Leadership Conference of Women Religious Loretto Community Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service MALDEF Mijente National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Council of Jewish Women National Council of La Raza National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) National Immigrant Justice Center National Immigrant Solidarity Network National Immigration Law Center National Justice for Our Neighbors National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health National Latina/o Psychological Association National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice NIRRC Presente.org Project on Government Oversight Provincial Council Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians) 4 Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) Refugee and Immigration Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Salvadoran American National Network (SANN) Scalabrini International Migration Network Sisters of Charity of New York Sisters of Mercy South Central Community South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) Southern Poverty Law Center Tahirih Justice Center The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Unitarian Universalist Service Committee United We Dream We Belong Together Women's Refugee Commission State/Local Organizations ARISE Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Asian Law Alliance Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council Association of Latino/as Motivating Action (ALMA) Austin Jewish Voice for Peace Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition CARECEN DC Catholic Democrats of Nebraska Chicago Benedictines for Peace Church Women United in New York State Cleveland Jobs with Justice Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto DC-Maryland Justice for Our Neighbors Dolores Street Community Services Encuentro Enlace Comunitario Equality New Mexico Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, CCLA Faith Voices Arkansas Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc. Fellowship of Reconciliation, Louisville Chapter Friends of Broward Detainees Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees 5 Gospel Justice Committee, Sisters of the Most Precious Greater Rochester Coalition for Immigration Justice Grupo de Apoyo e Integración Hispanoamericano Hilton Head for Peace Human Rights Initiative of North Texas Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Immigrant Detainee Accompaniment Program Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project Immigration Justice Clinic of John Jay Legal Services, Inc. Inter-faith Coalition of Immigration, MN Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants Irish International Immigrant Center Justice for All Justice for Our Neighbors-Nebraska Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Kids for College Kino Border Initiative KY Interfaith Taskforce on Latin America and the Caribbean La Frontera Ministries La Union del Pueblo Entero Logan Square Neighborhood Association Loretto Motherhouse Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Migrant Justice / Justicia Migrante Movi Del Valle por los Derechos Humanos Mujeres Latinas en Acción Mujeres Unidas y Activas NC Council of Churches Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest Needham (MA) Area Immigration Justice Task Force NM Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Omaha Together One Community OneAmerica Pangea Legal Services PASO - West Suburban Action Project Pax Christi Florida 6 Pennsylvania Council of Churches Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition Personal Project IRENE Reformed Church of Highland Park Schlegel Center for Service and Justice at Creighton University Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, Inc. Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, MO Skagit Immigrant Rights Council South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship, and Training (SAFEST) South Texas Human Rights Center Taos Refugee and Immigration Network The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project Wayne Action for Racial Equality Wisconsin Council of Churches Workers Defense Project CC: Megan Mack, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Department of Homeland Security 7