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October 01, 2015

Immigration Detention Standards

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recommended in September that the Department of Homeland Security, its component agencies, and any entity contracted to provide detention services should adopt the ABA Civil Immigration Detention Standards, which were approved by the ABA in August 2012. This year’s annual Statutory Enforcement Report: the State of Civil Rights at Immigration Detention Facilities found that some detention centers and contracted facilities are not fully complying with the current National Detention Standards regarding medical care, legal information and other basic standards of treatment. Those standards, which took effect in 2001 and were last updated in 2011, were intended to promote humane treatment of detainees, but the commission found that DHS is not respecting the civil rights and due process rights of detainees and does not sufficiently protect detainees from sexual assault and abuse. The National Detention Standards are based on the American Correctional Association Standards and, although Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has developed civil detention principles as part of a plan to reform its system, no standards have been adopted to require a transition to a civil immigration detention system. During a commission briefing on detention issues in January, Karen Grisez, former chair and special advisor to the ABA Commission on Immigration, noted the continuing complaints that the ABA receives from detainees and stressed the “serious need to evaluate the United States’ system of immigration detention and the deleterious impacts it has on individuals and families.” The ABA standards provide that individuals should be kept in as close to normal living conditions as possible except for those cases where an individual poses a danger. The ABA standards also emphasize the importance of access to legal representation for detainees.

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