Declining standards

January 18, 2020

Last month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officially released a new version of its National Detention Standards , which govern the treatment of immigrant detainees held in almost 140...

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Last month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officially released a new version of its National Detention Standards (NDS), which govern the treatment of immigrant detainees held in almost 140 facilities in 44 states. These facilities include local and state jails and prisons -- some operated by private prison companies -- under contract with ICE. Despite being considered “civil detention,” almost 20 percent of ICE detainees are held in these jails and prisons, many of which are located in remote, rural locations.

ICE describes its revisions to the NDS as a set of “streamlined,” “updated, modernized standards.” In reality, the new NDS weakens critical protections and lowers oversight requirements, which could have disastrous consequences for the health and safety of thousands of people in immigration detention.

ICE’s own Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office recently noted that ICE has “systematically provided inadequate medical and mental health care and oversight to immigration detainees in facilities throughout the US.” Yet, ICE’s new NDS has removed even basic, minimal safeguards necessary for adequate medical care. ICE no longer requires facilities governed by the NDS to maintain current accreditation with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).

Also gone is the requirement that health assessments of detainees be performed according to national correctional standards. It’s important to remember that the journey to the US is arduous -- many people arrive in poor health, and at least 16 people died in ICE custody in 2018 and 2019. These health assessments, which already lack rigor, are a critical life-saving mechanism.

Although ICE has come under fire for inadequate medical and mental health staffing, the new NDS no longer requires health care and medical facilities at these jails to be under the direction of a licensed physician, but instead a “Health Services Administrator.” Congress has called for greater oversight of deaths in immigration detention, but ICE has now weakened reporting and record-keeping requirements in the event of a detainee’s death at these facilities.

The new NDS further weakens protections for immigrant detainees against the use of force and solitary confinement by officers. The prior version of the NDS barred officers from the use of “hog-tying, fetal restraints, tight restraints, improperly applied” against immigrant detainees -- but this restriction is now eliminated. Facilities are no longer explicitly required to store use-of-force equipment securely. The new NDS broadens allowable reasons to place a detainee in solitary confinement and has removed specific protections for detainees in disciplinary proceedings facing solitary confinement. Medical staff at these facilities may now place detainees in medical segregation (solitary confinement) for refusing examination or treatment.

Excerpted from: 'The Trump Administration Weakens Standards for ICE Detention Facilities'.

Commondreams.org



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