Despite the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency's new enhanced oversight announcements on its immigrant detention facilities, congressional lawmakers and immigrant rights' advocates are still voicing their disapproval.

"The announcement that the administration will implement enhanced oversight for family detention centers after the drastic expansion of family detention over the past year is deeply disappointing," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. in a statement released Thursday. "The administration's efforts simply do not go far enough and are an unacceptable response to adequately address the grave concerns of detaining women and children.

Menendez and other immigrant rights advocates are referring to ICE's six "series of actions" to enhance the agency's oversight on family residential facilities, also referred to as detention centers.

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 series of actions also include expanded services to legal counsel and medical care, appoint a senior ICE official to coordinate and review the detention centers' policies, and meetings with stakeholders to discuss concerns about the centers.

"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."

Menendez and national groups have said family detention is "unacceptable" for families who have been fleeing violence and pose no risk to U.S. national security.

"Our efforts should be directed at apprehending real criminals or those who pose a national security threat to the United States. Instead we are blindly funneling families into privately-owned detention centers and paying for it with taxpayer dollars," added Menendez.

He continued, "Put simply, there is no humane way to detain women and children. Detention should be used only as a last resort and I will continue to do everything I can to get the Administration to rethink this misguided policy and change course."

Detention Watch Network (DWN), a national coalition of organizations and individuals challenging U.S. immigration detention and deportation system policies, issued a statement acknowledging Saldaña's announcements but referred it as a tactic.

"After successful litigation and months of actions against family detention, including a rally of 600 at Dilley earlier this month, ICE is clearly feeling pressure to address concerns around family detention. Unfortunately their new policy is nothing more than a delay tactic," said DWN Co-Director Silky Shah.

"ICE's new 'standards' for detaining families still don't meet the basic standards of human decency or rights. Putting women and children fleeing violence behind bars is appalling -- and ICE's latest moves change nothing on that front. It's time for the Obama administration and ICE to end their failed family detention program, and close these facilities once and for all. It's time to remove this stain from America's human rights record," Shah added.


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