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Obama Administration has done little to clean up "Chronic Abuses" in Immigration Detention System

Published: Dec 6, 2011 9:15 am

The New York Times published an editorial yesterday regarding the Obama administration's now two-year-old pledge to clean up the immigration detention system.  The pledge was made in 2009 by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in acknowledgment of "reports of chronic abuses — of detainees beaten and sometimes left to die of untreated injuries and illness."

The Times gave a status update on the progress the administration has made towards cleaning up a "broken, dangerous system."  The report reveals that only "meager progress" has been made by the administration, citing a report issued by Human Rights First (HRF), entitled Jails and Jumpsuits: Transforming the U.S. Immigration Detention System—A Two-Year Review.

HRF found two years later that:

"...the overwhelming majority of detained asylum seekers and other civil immigration law detainees are still held in jails or jail-like facilities—almost 400,000 detainees each year, at a cost of over $2 billion. At these facilities, asylum seekers and other immigrants wear prison uniforms and are typically locked in one large room for up to 23 hours a day; they have limited or essentially no outdoor access, and visit with family only through Plexiglas barriers, and sometimes only via video, even when visitors are in the same building."

The Times editorial also references a recent American Civil Liberties Union report uncovering nearly 200 accusations of sexual abuse of immigrant detainees. 

Here is the ACLU summary:

"Government documents obtained by the ACLU contain nearly 200 allegations of sexual abuse of immigration detainees jailed at detention facilities across the nation since 2007 alone. The documents were obtained from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and ICE. While the information gleaned from the documents likely does not represent the full scope of the problem given that sexual abuse is notoriously underreported, the documents nonetheless make clear that the sexual abuse of immigration detainees is not an isolated problem limited to a few rogue facilities or to a handful of bad-apple government contractors who staff some of the nation’s immigration jails. According to the documents, while facilities in Texas are the focus of more allegations by far than any other state, sexual abuse allegations have come from nearly every state in the nation that houses an immigration detention facility."

As I have said many times before, this President may not have the power to change our beyond broken immigration laws, but he has complete authority over the execution of the law, and the ability to ensure that human rights abuses are not perpetrated by an extension of his own hand.

Maybe the President should have another lunch with Shakira to figure out how to fix this problem, because after two-years he still hasn't been able to find an answer.

How is that re-election campaign going Mr. President?

Click here to read the Times editorial.

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