Immigration Reform: Detained Immigrant Families, Childrens' Civil Rights Violated, Says USCCR Report
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), an independent and bipartisan agency created by Congress, published an in-depth report, calling for the end of immigrant detention.
The USCCR's report, "Statutory Enforcement Report: The State of Civil Rights at Immigration Detention Facilities," examined the conditions, due process and rights of detained families. The report found that some detention facilities are not fully complying with detention standards, specifically legal access, medical care and other basic needs. The report, which has been sent to Congress and President Barack Obama, recommended the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release all family detainees, reduce detention usage, allow legal access and improved due process protections, ensure humane treatment toward detainees and increase the usage of alternatives to detention.
USCCR Chairman Martin R. Castro told Latin Post that some detention facilities are run by either the government or through private prison corporations. Regardless of management, several conditions were not met to standards.
"We also saw that a lot of this detention is being driven by mandates, congressional mandates, to fill 34,000 beds. There's bed quota. We believe decisions are being made not only policy but on profit," said Castro. "That's troubling."
Castro, who was appointed by Obama, said the detained immigrant women and children are low-risked individuals, and the federal government has been violating the terms of the 1997 Flores v. Reno settlement that prohibited the detainment of migrant parents and children together unless there's a significant flight risk or public safety threat. In addition to the report, the USCCR sent a letter to Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, urging the government to comply with the Flores settlement.
Castro said the detainees are essentially incarcerated, and because of inadequate legal council or high bails, detainees have not been able to enforce their rights.
The USCCR recommend family detention be eliminated and that resources can be reallocated to determine less restrictive alternative means of detention and support legal counsel for detainees. Castro said detained immigrant children, for example, are more likely to appear at their immigration court hearing if they are provided with legal counsel.
"We have to understand that these folks are coming here to seek asylum. They're coming to be protected from a situation that in their homeland is untenable. They're not going to want to disappear, they want to have want their rights enforced, they want to find their asylum case confirmed. These are the people least risky involved, and they should be released quickly," said Castro.
For the report, the USCCR commissioners visited the Karnes Immigration Family Detention Center and Port Isabel Immigration Detention Center, both located in Texas. Castro said the most impactful moments were speaking to the detained families and children.
"To come to them as someone who looks like them, who speaks their language, who's not that far removed, historically or familiarly from where they come from, to be able to say 'I'm here as a federal leader and as someone who was appointed by the president to find out what your conditions are,'" said Castro, who is the first Latino USCCR chairman.
With the report and letter published, Castro said he hopes it will add another voice speaking about immigrant detention, recognizing that there are civil rights violations.
"It is our hope that [the report] helps resolve this issue and contributes positively to this conversation, which our nation is having right now on this topic," said Castro.
To read the full USCCR report, click here.
For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: email@example.com.
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