House committee blasts conditions, staff ‘indifference’ at ICE migrant centers

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Detainees lack proper medical care, access to lawyers, translators, and experience punitive segretation, Democrats allege

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Democrats of the House Homeland Security Committee have issued a report blasting conditions at immigration detention facilities nationwide.

The report alleges that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has failed to address medical care, cleanliness, overcrowding and inadequate access to legal and translation services issues at these centers. Conclusions are based on committee staff members’ visits to ICE detention facilities, records reviews and interviews with migrants and local ICE officials.

“DHS has several tools at its disposal to identify and correct deficiencies at ICE detention facilities. In practice, unfortunately, these tools frequently leave deficiencies unidentified and uncorrected,” states the report published this week.

Migrants line up while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (photo courtesy ICE)

House members appeared particularly concerned with contractors hired by ICE to run detention facilities where alleged neglect, poor hygiene and abuse of migrants has been alleged.

“Individuals held at one facility complained of standing water left to fester in the housing units, creating unsanitary conditions and a breeding ground for mosquitos,” the report states, adding that contracted staff often shows “indifference” to medical care needs of detainees. “The committee encountered several staff working at detention facilities that diminished the seriousness of suicide attempts as well as evidence of detainee medical issues going untreated.”

The committee’s investigation also found alleged use of segregation – placing migrants in solitary confinement – as retaliation, and barriers to detainees who want to obtain information about their cases or access to interpreters and translators.

The committee’s Democratic majority report calls on ICE to establish processes to better identify and correct deficiencies at detention centers and make contractors meet established regulations.

“Instead of waiving certain standards and prioritizing bed space (availability), ICE should cease doing business with those contractors that are unable to meet basic standards of health and safety,” the report states. The committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, did not identify who those contractors are.

Some of the facilities visited by the committee’s staff included Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, New Mexico; the Otay Mesa Detention Center and the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, both in California.

In an email to Border Report, ICE said it’s open to suggestions on how to improve the health and safety of detainees.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appreciates the efforts of the committee and intends to closely review the report,” the agency said. “ICE welcomes any recommendations that help improve agency processes and ensure that civil detention operations provide a safe and secure environment for detainees.”

The agency said a few years ago it created a unit called Office of Detention Oversight to conduct independent oversight of detention conditions through facility reviews and site visits. “As an independent oversight body, ODO has its own unique inspection process and reporting structure. “ODO conducts compliance inspections at detention facilities in which detainees are accommodated for periods in excess of 72 hours to determine compliance with the ICE National Detention Standards” and other standards, the email said.

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