LatinaLista — While everyone (for the most part) has a great deal of hope in what President Obama can do for the country, there's no group probably hoping harder than the hundreds of immigrants languishing in detention facilities across the nation.
A new report by the Arizona-based Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) found that Arizona houses about 300 immigrant women who are caught up in the fastest growing form of incarceration in the country.
Their problems are not unique to Arizona but thanks to the research performed by the report's authors, their stories give insight to the "Unseen Prisoners."
In UNSEEN PRISONERS: A Report on Women in Immigration Detention Facilities in Arizona, researchers found a host of problems that negatively impact the welfare of the female immigrants.
Inadequate medical care
AÂ wasÂ detainedÂ whileÂ sixÂ monthsÂ pregnant.Â SheÂ spentÂ overÂ aÂ monthÂ inÂ detention,Â andÂ duringÂ thisÂ timeÂ wasÂ unableÂ toÂ receiveÂ appropriateÂ prenatalÂ care,Â includingÂ monitoringÂ ofÂ aÂ potentiallyÂ dangerousÂ ovarianÂ cyst,Â prenatalÂ vitamins,Â orÂ extraÂ paddingÂ forÂ herÂ bed.Â
Mixing women immigration detainees with people serving criminal sentences
TÂ wasÂ oneÂ ofÂ manyÂ womenÂ whoÂ describedÂ beingÂ terrifiedÂ ofÂ theÂ federalÂ prisonersÂ inÂ herÂ cellÂ block.Â SheÂ routinelyÂ skippedÂ mealsÂ forÂ fearÂ ofÂ encounteringÂ themÂ inÂ theÂ diningÂ hall.Â Â Â
TheÂ majorityÂ ofÂ womenÂ interviewedÂ wereÂ separatedÂ fromÂ atÂ leastÂ oneÂ U.S.Â citizenÂ childÂ underÂ theÂ ageÂ ofÂ 10.Â
TheÂ majorityÂ ofÂ womenÂ interviewedÂ wereÂ transferredÂ toÂ ArizonaÂ fromÂ outÂ ofÂ state.Â AsÂ aÂ result,Â theyÂ were hundredsÂ orÂ atÂ timesÂ thousandsÂ ofÂ milesÂ awayÂ fromÂ theirÂ familiesÂ andÂ communitiesÂ duringÂ theirÂ timeÂ inÂ
Severe penal conditions for women who are not serving criminal sentences
Immigration detainees are in administrative rather than criminal proceedings. Yet women described conditions of confinement that are in many cases more restrictive than in county jails or prisons, including limited access to recreation, a complete absence of programming or activities, frugal provision of food and other supplies and the routine use of strip searches and shackling during transport.
The list goes on. The report's authors don't identify the problems without trying to help federal authorities find solutions. So a list of recommendations, broken down for Congress, Department of Homeland Security and ICE are included with detailed notes on how to improve the situation.
A. Medical Care
1. Congress: Pass legislation to require DHS to establish legally enforceable procedures for the timely and effective delivery of medical care to immigration detainees.
2. DHS: Provide enforceable regulations to guarantee women appropriate gynecological and obstetrical care.
3. ICE: Halt or strictly limit the practice of detaining nursing mothers and pregnant women to cases in which no alternative arrangements exist.
Seeing that Arizona is the home state of the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, it will be interesting to see how responsive the Secretary is to this report. Her response will be a good indication as to how responsive she'll be to the rest of the country where she doesn't have the personal nor emotional attachment that she has with Arizona.
Clearly, this report, along with other studies that have been conducted regarding immigrant detention facilities and ICE practices, shows a consistent violation of basic human rights.
What makes these practices even more deplorable is the fact that these women and other immigrants held at detention facilities are not hardened criminals that warrant this kind of treatment.
It is time for the U.S. to regain international leadership when it comes to treating people with dignity, respect and compassion.