For Immediate Release: June 21, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today praises Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) for his leadership on improving accountability and transparency of immigration detention facilities. His amendment (1264) to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744) would ensure that prisons and detention facilities owned or operated by private entities, which house approximately 50 percent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees, comply with Freedom of Information Act requests in the same way that any federal agency is required.
“We urge all senators to follow Sen. Cardin’s lead and support Amendment 1264,” said Human Rights First’s Katharina Obser. “Every year, ICE detains about 400,000 immigrants – including thousands of asylum seekers – in a sprawling system of jails and jail-like facilities across the country at a cost to taxpayers of $2 billion. Sen. Cardin’s amendment would go a long way to ensuring that these facilities are operated in a more transparent way.”
Human Rights First also notes that Congress should take additional steps to implement an effective system of alternatives to immigration detention and take steps that would reduce unnecessary detention costs, including:
- Require custody hearings for immigrants to determine whether detention is necessary
- Reduce costs by recognizing that restrictive measures can constitute custody.
- Support steps to reduce delays in the immigration court system and to appoint counsel to vulnerable populations.
- Eliminate language mandating a specific number of detention beds in DHS appropriations bills.