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Human rights infractions in immigration detention centers

A recent report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) points to issues of inhumane treatment in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers across the country. The conditions under which detainees are held neglect their health, safety and basic human rights. The existence of such detention centers has been controversial since their founding.

According to the study, the OIG conducted announced inspections of six detention centers in five states (California, Texas, New Jersey, Georgia and New Mexico). The Texas-based Laredo Processing Center was the only site that reportedly “modeled quality operations.”

In the remaining five locations, authorities found egregious infractions. Officers in some locations practiced indiscriminate strip searching—which is against protocol. There were frequently inadequate foreign language services offered to aid in communication with non-English speaking immigrants. There were also ineffective methods to file and respond to grievances. Beyond these offenses, inmates were found to be treated disrespectfully, left in poor hygiene and with poor medical care and given food that was spoiled or moldy.

The above situation is not a new problem. The Department of Homeland Security previously published a report on conditions of detention centers for unaccompanied children, citing instances of inadequate food among other infractions. The National Immigrant Justice Center and the Women’s Refugee Commission have attacked ICE for years over its substandard oversight of detention centers. These organizations are pushing for the reduction of immigrants detained in such facilities—since ICE has not proven itself capable of providing safe conditions for this population—and finding humane alternatives to detention. These efforts are in opposition to the current administration’s efforts to boost detention.

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