The Office of Inspector General for DHS, the "watchdog" of the department, conducted random site visits at six ICE detention facilities to determine whether the baseline standards of detainee treatment were being met. The resulting report exposed numerous unsatisfactory conditions at several ICE detention facilities.
One of the facilities was not housing detainees according to their criminal history, resulting in nonviolent aliens being housed with violent criminals. Another facility was uniformly strip-searching all detainees and failing to document the reason or results. Administrative and disciplinary segregation was poorly documented and potentially abused. Detainee grievances went unaddressed. Some facilities inspected had failed to provide language assistance, creating a communication barrier between detainees and staff that "risks turning problems that could have been resolved through routine interaction into disciplinary issues." The ICE National Detainee Handbook, which covers critically essential information about their legal rights, was not provided in a language that could be understood. Medical consent forms were not always available, even in Spanish. Furthermore, four of the six facilities reported instances of mistreatment of detainees by staff. There were other instances of poor conditions and lack of hygienic supplies.
The audit done by the OIG was telling. Of the six facilities visited, one was operating fairly well. Three needed some corrections implemented immediately, and two were absolutely abysmal as far as their all-around treatment of detainees. That is not a good indicator of the general conditions at the majority of the other detention facilities. This is not new news. Conditions at detention facilities have been the subject of law suits for decades. The OIG report recommended that ICE improve those problems specifically identified. However, given some of the content of the report, the Director of ICE may be better served by also investigating and terminating the employment of facility staff now who are responsible for these gross oversights and abuses.
Photo: In this 2008 file photo, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer guards a group of immigrants awaiting deportation at a Texas detention facility. (Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images)