December 15, 2017

After Hearing Concerns, Duckworth Conducts Oversight Visit at ICE Detention Center in Kankakee


[KANKAKEE, IL] – After hearing concerns from immigration stakeholders, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today conducted an oversight visit of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities at the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee, Illinois. This visit is a direct result of numerous complaints that the facility is not in compliance with National Detention Standards (NDS), which ensures the humane treatment of detainees. In September, Duckworth wrote a letter to ICE outlining reports of potential civil rights violations including poor nutrition, inadequate medical care and insufficient access to a designated law library and recreational spaces. A photo of Duckworth’s visit to the ICE facilities can be found here.

“Given recent deeply troubling reports, it is clear we need more transparency and accountability in facilities that house federal immigration detainees,” Duckworth said. “It was important for me to see first-hand if ICE is complying with its own, most up-to-date standards. Immigration detainees in ICE’s custody should be afforded basic human rights and civil rights, treated with decency and provided with adequate food and medical care. Anything less is unacceptable.”

In response to Duckworth’s September letter, ICE stated the facilities at the Jerome Combs Detention Center were “inspected under the NDS 2000.” Those standards are woefully outdated and do not reflect ICE’s current Performance-Based National Detention Standards, which were overhauled in 2011 with updates in 2013 and 2016. Duckworth joined Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) in writing a letter today to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Subcommittee on Appropriations Chairman and Ranking Member to address this and ensure all ICE detention system facilities and contract facilities meet the most up-to-date ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards.

“By codifying immigration detention standards, we can help create a powerful framework for oversight and accountability – improving the safety and security at detention centers across the country, including in Kankakee.” Duckworth said. “I will keep working to strengthen government oversight and create comprehensive immigration reform that is just, fair and humane.”

Duckworth has also been a vocal critic of harmful immigration enforcement. Last month, following reports that a young girl with cerebral palsy was detained on her way to receive surgery, Duckworth joined Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Robert Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeffery Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren ( D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in calling for an investigation into ongoing violations of federal policies regarding immigration enforcement at sensitive locations like schools, hospitals and religious institutions.

The full text of today’s letter with Senator Harris is below.

December 15, 2017

The Honorable John Carter The Honorable Lucille Roybal-Allard

Chairman Ranking Member

House Committee on Appropriations House Committee on Appropriations

Subcommittee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Homeland Security

The Honorable John Boozman The Honorable Jon Tester

Chairman Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Appropriations Senate Committee on Appropriations

Subcommittee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Homeland Security

Dear Chairman Carter, Ranking Member Roybal-Allard, Chairman Boozman, and Ranking Member Tester:

As your Subcommittees consider FY18 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations, we urge you to include report language to mandate that all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention system facilities, including contract facilities and local and county jails operating under Inter-Governmental Service Agreements, meet ICE 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) requirements as last revised in 2016.

Mandating that all ICE detention system facilities meet updated PBNDS requirements will help mitigate troubling current limits on oversight and accountability in federal immigration detention practices. Implementing these standards is especially important given the dramatic increase in arrests by ICE and efforts under this administration to expand the incarceration of immigrants. These trends, combined with plans by DHS to use criminal detention standards for a civil detention system, require immediate attention by Congress.

ICE PBNDS – overhauled with diverse stakeholder input in 2011, updated in 2013 and again last year– reflect a critical step to improve health and safety within immigrant detention facilities. ICE has failed, however, to conduct reasonable inspections of and broadly apply PBNDS requirements to all of the more than two hundred facilities in its detention system. In fact, the most recent data made publicly available by ICE – which was only released in the course of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation – reveals that 151 of the 201 detention facilities currently in use by ICE are inspected using woefully out of date 2000 National Detention Standards.

Poor conditions and inhumane treatment of immigrants within ICE detention facilities continue to fuel tragic and unjust consequences. Immigrants suffer mentally and physically – some have even lost their lives – as a result of dangerous, cruel, and unsanitary conditions and medical negligence within some facilities. A majority of immigrants in ICE detention facilities additionally face immense barriers to access counsel to assist them in their complex immigration legal proceedings, which violates principles of due process.

Mandating that all facilities within the ICE detention system meet the most current PBNDS requirements as a condition of DHS appropriations would create a powerful framework for oversight and accountability to drive necessary reform of an intolerable federal immigration detention status quo.

Thank you for your consideration of our request and for your considerable efforts on FY18 appropriations.