June 25, 2018

Duckworth, Booker, Senators Introduce Bill Targeting Family Detention, Inhumane Conditions of Immigration Detention Centers, Flawed Detention Processing System

Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would make a number of much-needed reforms to immigration detention system


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined Cory Booker (D-NJ) and 8 of her Senate colleagues in introducing a bill to significantly reduce family detention and help improve the harsh and inhumane conditions of immigration detention centers that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to house thousands of immigrants. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is a Senate companion to a House bill introduced in October by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Adam Smith (D-WA).

“It is unacceptable that not only has the Trump administration spent weeks ripping children away from their parents, but they have also forced children and families into inhumane and shameful detention camps,” Senator Duckworth said. “Our bill will hold the Department of Homeland Security accountable and ensure immigrant and refugee families are treated humanely and no longer torn apart or indefinitely detained.”

“For centuries, the United States has been known throughout the world as a beacon of light and hope for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the cast aside,” Senator Booker said. “America is at its best when we welcome immigrants fleeing oppression, famine, or injustice. Yes, our borders must be secure, but our immigration policies also need to reflect our American values.”

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would significantly restrict family detention, preventing the federal government from expending resources to detain immigrants except in instances where immigrants pose a flight risk or a risk to public safety. The bill also ends the use of private prisons to detain immigrants, sets humane standards for detention facilities, strengthens the inspection and monitoring of facilities in order to crack down on abuses, and better protects the civil rights of immigrant detainees.

“Separating immigrant children from their parents, indefinitely detaining families, and subjecting families to the inhumane conditions in which detainees are currently held is shameful,” Senator Booker added. “And the fact that many immigrants are often arrested and held in such conditions without due process is completely at odds with our Constitution and our ideals. Our bill would make a series of reforms to fix this broken system and restore justice and fairness to our immigration detention system.”

Specifically, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would:

    • Prevent the detention of a primary caregiver, or vulnerable populations (i.e. minors, pregnant women, LGBTQ individuals, survivors of torture, etc.) unless the government can show it is unreasonable or not practicable to place them in community-based supervision.

    • Establish binding civil detention standards that are at least as protective as the Civil Immigration Detention Standards adopted by the American Bar Association in 2012 (the detention standards currently in use are not binding and provide minimal protections modeled on correctional rather than civil detention systems).

    • Require the DHS Office of the Inspector General to conduct unannounced inspections of all detention facilities at least once per year and to make such reports publicly available (the current system of inspections and oversight is rife with loopholes and woefully inadequate to document and remedy egregious failures. For example, facilities are given advance warning of inspections and most facilities are inspected using outdated standards).
        o Negative findings would result in financial penalties for contractors and remedial measures for DHS.

    • Require DHS to investigate any deaths in custody and make the resulting report publicly available (currently, DHS is not required by law release findings publicly).

    • Require DHS to terminate all contracts with private prisons and local jails for the purpose of detention over the course of a three-year phase-out period.

    • Require DHS to obtain judicial warrants of arrest or provide detainees a probable cause hearing before an immigration judge within 48 hours of detention.

    • Strike the $1,500 minimum bond amount currently in the statute and require immigration judges to consider the immigrant’s ability to pay when setting bond.

    • Require DHS to render a custody determination within 48 hours of taking an immigrant into custody and grants the immigrant the right to appeal such determination before an immigration judge within 72 hours.