Indian American Politicians Ask for Better Supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The number of assaults, abuses and deaths of immigrants in detention "prove that ICE isn’t able to police itself," Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Senator Kamala D. Harris said in a statement.


A bicameral bill has been introduced by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Senator Kamala D. Harris in a bid to counter abuses by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers through supervision. The bill, the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act, also plans to halt funds for construction or expansion of new facilities.

The number of non-citizens being detained has seen a 400 per cent rise, with an increasing number of them being children, women and pregnant women, the two Democrats said in a statement on May 15. The detainees are mistreated by the ICE agents, and made to live in “deplorable conditions” while their rights are violated, they added.

“Even though the U.S. already houses the largest immigrant detention system in the world, the Trump administration wants more detention beds without any oversight,” said Representative Jayapal, who is a first generation immigrant herself. “The countless number of horrific assaults, senseless abuses and needless deaths of immigrants in detention prove that ICE isn’t able to police itself. Our bill demands a higher accountability of ICE and a stop to detention expansion because our nation doesn’t need more violence and further militarization – what we need is comprehensive and humane reform and real accountability,” she added.

“ICE’s indiscriminate approach to immigration enforcement continues to sow fear and anxiety in communities across the nation and strict oversight is long overdue,” said Senator Harris. “It is unconscionable to subject detainees to inhumane conditions that include cases of unchecked sexual abuse, outright medical negligence, lack of access to counsel, and in some cases, even death. It’s time to end the expansion of these facilities that divert these resources to address true public safety threats.”

Multiple accusations have been made against the ICE. Between FY2012 and March 2018, ICE received 1,448 allegations of sexual abuse in detention facilities. Only a small percent of these claims have been investigated, the two senators said. They added that pregnant women are not receiving appropriate medical attention, leading to dehydration and even miscarriages.

In FY17 alone, at least three women reportedly miscarried while in ICE custody, they said, adding that the detainees “often struggle to secure representation due to language barriers, wait times in detention facilities, and distance between detention facilities and government-provided aid, all of which raise serious due process concerns.”

There have been more than 170 custodial deaths since 2003, the statement read.

“Through our network of visitation programs and our hotline, we’ve documented countless stories of detained individuals who’ve been abused by ICE and private prison companies. The abuses range from sexual assault to forced labor to medical neglect and even death. These inhumane conditions have become the status quo in the U.S. immigration detention system and we refuse to tolerate it,” said Christina Fialho, a California attorney and co-founder/executive director of Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC).

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