Report finds DHS detainment facilities “deficient” of basic care

ICE Detention Centers
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[Migrant Detention Facilities]
Rep. Thompson: "Our investigation has made abundantly clear that ICE must establish better processes to identify and correct deficiencies at its detention centers that don’t meet ICE’s own standards of care."
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Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, released a majority staff report finding that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fails to conduct proper oversight of migrant detention facilities, leaving deficiencies unidentified and uncorrected, and that ICE facilities frequently fail to meet basic standards of care.

One year ago, Chairman Thompson commenced an investigation into the conditions of confinement at ICE detention facilities and whether the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the necessary oversight tools in place to ensure that those facilities meet applicable standards. Over the course of the past year, Committee staff, despite access challenges, visited eight ICE detention facilities and spoke with more than 400 migrants held in detention.

The Committee found that DHS’ oversight of ICE facilities fails to identify and correct deficiencies. Inspections are too broad, too infrequent, and preannounced, while the contractor that conducts annual inspections of ICE detention facilities is not fully capable. Also, DHS has few mechanisms to force facilities to correct problems and rarely uses those that are available. Unfortunately, DHS continues to contract with facilities that do not meet ICE’s own standards and ICE seemingly prioritizes obtaining bed space over the well-being of detainees in its care.

In the report, the Committee also details four areas in which ICE facilities fail to meet basic standards of care for migrants:

  • deficient medical, dental, and mental health care, including lack of protection from COVID-19;
  • misuse and abuse of solitary confinement as a form of retaliation;
  • challenges accessing legal and translation services; and
  • unsanitary conditions, such as standing water in housing units.

Chairman Thompson released the following statement with the report:

“Our investigation has made abundantly clear that ICE must establish better processes to identify and correct deficiencies at its detention centers that don’t meet ICE’s own standards of care. The repeated medical standard violations at ICE’s Adelanto facility and ICE’s failure to promptly act to fix the dire conditions at its Cibola County facility are glaring evidence of this.

“Instead of prioritizing bed space, ICE needs to put the health of its migrants in its care first by enforcing its own standards of care and only sending taxpayer money to facilities that meet these standards. The COVID-19 pandemic, and its quick spread within ICE facilities, has further highlighted how failures to meet these standards of care are a matter of life and death for migrants and employees.

“I hope after reading this report that DHS officials act swiftly to address these glaring problems. What we found clearly indicates a pattern of violations across ICE’s detention system that goes beyond just the facilities we visited. My Committee will continue its oversight of ICE facility conditions and remains committed to holding ICE and DHS accountable for their failures.”

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