Saturday, June 27, 2009

House of Representatives Report on DHS Appropriations, 2010

A House of Representatives report on the Department of Homeland Security's 2010 appropriations dedicates a section to Child and Family Detention, Alternatives to Detention, and unaccompanied children in ICE custody in its review of Immigration and Customs Enforcement activities. On family detention, in particular, the Appropriations Committee

believes that detention is not generally appropriate for families and is concerned that the Department does not routinely make Alternatives to Detention available to families it takes into custody. In addition, while the Committee is pleased that ICE developed and implemented detention standards for families held in its custody, it remains concerned that ICE family detention standards are based on adult prison standards. The Committee directs the Department to prioritize the use of Alternatives to Detention program for families who do not need to be held in immigration detention. The Committee further directs the Office of Professional Responsibility to conduct a review of families detained in ICE custody since 2007 and determine whether ICE complied with its own internal guidance for when to hold families in custody and when to release them to Alternatives to Detention programs. The Committee directs ICE to report on the results of this review no later than the submission of the 2011 budget.

In addition, the Committee has heard reports of ICE prosecutors inappropriately using personal information about children when presenting cases in immigration court, such as medical records and psychological reviews. The Committee directs ICE to respect the privacy and confidentiality of detained children's case information, including privileged medical, psychological and social worker reports, and only to request access to those files when relevant to the case.

Congress appears to be hearing us on the key issues--prison-like conditions, lack of accountability, inadequate use of alternatives, and long stays in detention. As we near the August expiration of the Hutto Settlement, and the federal district court oversight that goes along with it, these issues are critical to families detained at Hutto.

While this report does not go as far as ending family detention (nor could it), it is encouraging that Congress find detainings families with children increasingly distasteful. It's time to keep the pressure on. Immigration reform is on the horizon, and reforming the detention system must be a key part of this conversation!

Thanks to Adrienne for bring this to our attention!