The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a "series of actions" to enhance the agency's oversight on family residential facilities, also referred to as detention centers. ICE's announcement comes as congressional lawmakers called for the end of such detention facilities.

According to ICE, one of the three federal immigration agencies under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a new Advisory Committee will be created to advice ICE Director Sarah Saldaña and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson about the family detention centers. The committee will comprise of "experts" in the children and family services, mental health, public health and detention management fields.

The second action is for Saldaña to appoint a senior ICE official to coordinate and review the detention centers' policies. The senior official will work "directly" with the facilities and ICE's headquarters while meeting with stakeholders.

The third action is to conduct a series of meetings with stakeholders to discuss concerns about the centers. The fourth action is to expand on the current service ICE policies are required to provide, which includes access to legal counsel, comprehensive medical care, educational services, social workers and play rooms for children.

The fifth action is to reevaluate the detention of adults with children. ICE will conduct reviews of families detained after 90 days and then every 60 days thereafter, to "ensure detention or the designated bond amount continues to be appropriate while families await conclusion of their immigration proceedings before the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review. Priority in the timing of the reviews will be given to those who have been detained the longest."

"While we routinely review and evaluate our facilities to ensure that we are providing the level of care required by our Family Residential Standards, we understand the unique and sensitive nature of detaining families and we are committed to maintaining the optimal level of care," said Saldaña in a statement. "The measures ICE is announcing reaffirm that understanding and our commitment to ensuring all individuals in our custody are held and treated in a safe, secure, and humane manner."

Lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives believe ICE's announcements are not enough and called for the end of the agency's family detention policies. In a joint statement, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., acknowledged the DHS's efforts to address the growing concerns of its detention policy.

"Unfortunately, today's plan states that DHS will continue detaining women and children, and only consider methods of making the facilities better and more humane," the three lawmakers stated. "The United States government should not be in the business of holding mothers and children in detention, no matter how nice the facilities or how many stakeholder meetings the government has."

The Democratic representatives said the detainment of children is harmful toward their development and can have long-lasting psychological health and well-being effects.

"The government should be releasing detainees on supervised or monitored release pending the disposition of their cases - not fighting the court orders, injunctions, and overwhelming evidence against family detention," the lawmakers' statement continued.


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