Jail Is No Place for US Immigration Detainees

Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that it needed to overhaul the detention of noncitizens in unnecessary detention and pledged to reform the immigration detention system.

A new report issued October 6th by Human Rights First shows how the United States continues to hold the overwhelming majority of its nearly 400,000 detained asylum seekers and other civil immigration law detainees in jails and jail-like facilities across the country, with an estimated cost of more than $2 billion in 2012.

Those detained include victims of abuse, including torture victims claiming asylum.

The report tells the story of Maria,* an undocumented mother of three daughters, whose partner abused her and reported her to immigration authorities. Immigration officers entered her home, arrested her and handcuffed her in front of her children.

Although Maria had not committed a crime, she was held in a county jail for six weeks. Denied a breast pump and separated from her baby, Maria suffered severe physical pain and emotional distress.

Even though Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy maintains that nursing mothers should not be detained, Maria was released only after Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) intervened and now she is seeking lawful status.

Half of all asylum seekers and civil immigration detainees are still held in actual jails.

HRF’s report, “Jails and Jumpsuits: Transforming the U.S. Immigration Detention System – A Two-Year Review,” notes that former prison officials and other corrections experts have found that less penal conditions in detention can actually help improve safety inside a facility, a finding echoed in multiple studies.

The report outlines steps that the administration should take to end its reliance on facilities with conditions that are inappropriate for asylum seekers and other civil immigration law detainees, and to bring U.S. detention practices into compliance with international human rights standards.

The $2 billion cost is more than 28 times the budget of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more cost-effective Alternatives to Detention, which save more than $110 per detainee per day.

The government’s 2009 commitment followed years of findings on the need for change on detention from bipartisan groups including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Council on Foreign Relations task force on immigration policy and the Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee – as well as the DHS Special Advisor charged by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano with reviewing the immigration detention system.

ICE has current plans to move only 14 percent of the detained population to new facilities with less penal conditions.

*Name changed.

Photo credit: Richard Vallejo


Theo v.
Theo v.5 years ago

May I ask what the hell has happened to this discussion? It looks like it's gone down to a very immature level with childish mudthrowing profanities hence and forth. Immigration may be a very sensitive subject in America but I don't see how that should excuse us from not behaving like human beings.

Robby C.
Past Member 5 years ago

I didn't say anything of the sort & I don't see anything in Vince D's post's that says anything like that either. Why don't you take your foul-mouthed, punk crap somewhere else, cause I'm not buying your tough guy crap- someone sounds a bit needy to me... Especially since you, apparently, can't read an entire post. I've stood up for many a woman in my life & you won't convince me that an illegal alien should get a free pass b/c someone did something to her on the American side of the fence. I mean, seriously- would a woman being raped in MX entitle her to come to the US legally? Why would it? If I get beat up in MX, can I have dual-citizenship? Had she stayed in MX, she would not have been raped in the US. That's not saying she brought the rape on herself, at all, but she broke the law. Why reward her, after the fact, for being here illegally? And, if things are so bad here, then why stay? Maybe you don't know many immigrants, but illegals really piss a lot of them off...

Jay Hem
Immigrant I AM5 years ago


You think just like you DOG FRIEND VINCE D.... maybe cause your one also

Scott M.
Its wonderful e.5 years ago

I would guess there are at least 2 billion people who would want to live in the states, they just cant get the airfare or permission to get in, so only a small fraction are able to, often under very bad circumstances.

Open up the borders and force everyone to allow at least 3 immigrants to live in their house, depending on the nbr who come in, EG if 2 billion come each household will need to take in 20 people.

Theo v.
Theo v.5 years ago

Robby, abusers often have a history of violence and a lot of victims are too scared to death, so scared that they fail to report. Also theats will be made about reporting, the "if you ever leave me I'll kill you" kind of threats, or the "I'll kill your new boyfriend" kind of threats. And what makes it worse is that the abusers often only get no more than a slap on the wrist.

Robby C.
Past Member 5 years ago

...aggression coming from many males. Again, partly" - see that last part- "Again, partly...?"

You have greatly misjudged me. I've been big on women's rights for yrs & will continue. I speak out a LOT! But as I said, society as a whole needs to change. From violent rap lyrics to what society accepts as "attractive" to begin with, all the way down to HS football coaches calling their players "girls," to prison rape jokes, etc. All these things desensitize society & makes it worse. This has to stop. But, is it not a bit scary to you that the worst possible insult to a guy is usually to call him a girl? Think about that...

Rapists, as well as women, child, & non-human animal abusers are the scum of the earth & I hate them beyond reason. We all must work together to solve these probs. And if one is not part of the solution, then they are part of the problem.

I don't know how I can be any clearer & certainly do not see this as victim blaming. It's kind of like saying that some illegals are violent offenders & having someone say "not all of them are." The word "some" already implied that. Of course, that's prob not the best analogy for several reasons, but I'm sure someone'll take a shot at me for that too... whatever...

Robby C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Please... I've stated here many times, how disgusted I am by rapists & abusers & I've told (again, many times) how I've dated more than one girl who'd been previous victims. So I sympathize more than you'll ever know. But, in SOME case (not all) the girl is partly responsible. I meant that in terms of repeat victims & tried to say how I don't consider 1st time situations to be the same. You know- you get assaulted by an aggressive BF, then GET OUT! Don't go back! I've had many friends- lots of cops & social workers & most girls who've been abused don't even report it. And when they do, they rarely follow through & prosecute. The coward is then free to beat her again AND/OR victimize others. And SOME women get in & out of these situations constantly- same type of guy, every time- in THOSE cases, they share some blame. That's what I agree w/Kathy about. Some girls pick a certain type. I've seen it more than once- girls who've been beated multiple times by dif guys- igoring pleas from me & others to intervene on ANY level...

In re-reading my post, I can't see how it is so "offensive" & I certainly was not engaging in an "awful lot of 'blaming the victim'" as I said several things:

1- "I can't speak for this situation due to lack of information from this article..."
2- "Society, as a whole, needs to change" - this meant men too!
3- "...attributes that girls often act as though they find attactive, are partly responsible for the aggres

Emily P.
Emily P.5 years ago

Robby C, are you for real? Seriously, you are engaging in an awful lot of "blaming the victim" for domestic violence and abuse and as a survivor of both I find your comments highly offensive.

Robby C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Apparently, only Americans have to follow American laws in the US... I'm tired of the hate too, but it comes from both sides. I've seen some of this firsthand & many (I wont say all) illegals are very violent & very in-your-face about this whole issue. I don't have all the answers here, but something has to be done. The US needs to stop dangling carrots & possibly allow more legal entry, but if people want to be "immigrants" then they need to take advantage of these legal avenues, plain & simple.

Robby C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Vince D- absolutely right...

And Kathy- I can't speak for this situation due to lack of information from this article, but I do know what you're talking about. I've seen it hundreds of times. Girls VERY OFTEN look for aggressive, chest-pounding males & then play the "victim" when they get beaten by them. Society, as a whole, needs to change & these attributes that girls often act as though they find attactive, are partly responsible for the aggression coming from many males. Again, partly. Now, if a girl gets beaten by a guy who seems nice at first, who then explodes on her, then... well... once is once, but if she goes back to him, then she is partly to blame & if she has children, she IS putting them at risk. Unfortunately, these days there are too many layers of crap. Sometimes, women cry battery when there was none to begin with. It does happen. Not sure where that leaves this particular situation, but I have seen plenty of women who gravitate towards the modern day cave-man type & after one allows a few into her bed, it gets tough to feel sympathy for her. But there is a serious prob w/illegals & we have to do something about it. It's not about being humanitarians, but about mere survival. "Population Gumballs" explains it very well on Youtube but so many do not live close enough to the problems, therefore, they do not understand it & are seriously confused. I understand not wanting to lump every illegal into the same category, but illegal is i