On October 3, Lucille Royball-Alard (D-California) introduced the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act (H.R. 7255), a bill that would reform detention conditions for the 300,000+ detained in the U.S. each year. This bill seeks to set enforceable minimum standards for all in detention and sets more specific standards for unaccompanied children and detained women.
This bill followed the Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act (S. 3594) introduced by Senators Menendez (D- NJ) and Ted Kennedy (D- MA). This bill takes aim at the Department of Homeland Security / Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that have hit the headlines in the past few months.
And earlier this year, Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act (H.R. 5950), which responded to the 82 detainee deaths in detention highlighted by the New York Times and Washington Post.
Why are these bills important? ICE has developed Family Residential Standards, which we have covered on this blog, and Adult Detention Standards. These serve as guidance documents for the government and non-governmental contractors that run detention facilities. Yet, the only real oversight remains internal to ICE-- that is, ICE inspects ICE facilities. The issue of internal oversight arose during the Hutto lawsuit, and the government repeatedly argued that there was no need for external inspections. While the Hutto Settlement contained court oversight, those of you familiar with the Hutto Settlement will remember that this will end in August 2009, when the settlement expires.
The bills above are Congress' efforts to give these standards "teeth," and hopefully set the bar a little higher for the treatment of detainees.
Numerous organizations have published statements, press releases, and reports on these bills. A few of them are: