Hill testimony reveals ICE supervisors may prove biggest obstacle in reforming detention practices

LatinaLista — Today, Rep. Loretta Sanchez convened a hearing as Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism regarding the topic “Moving Toward More Effective Immigration Detention Management.”

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Immediately after her opening remarks, the Ranking Member from Indiana, Rep. Mark Souder blasted the intent behind the hearing and continually strove to define the intention of detention reform as housing detained “criminal” immigrants in settings better than what US citizens are detained in who are awaiting trial.

According to Rep. Souder, undocumented immigrants should be given the basics of what is deemed “humane” but nothing more. But it was his obsession with denying undocumented immigrants anything other than the basic necessities and painting them as criminals that stifled his ability to see that the hearing had to do only with how to make detention less costly and more efficient given that, according to Rep. Sanchez, and contrary to Souder’s allegations, “58% of them (detainees) have no known criminal history; however they are still held in expensive criminal detention facilities.”

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez

Though Rep. Souder didn’t even like the idea of having a hearing on the topic, chances are he liked what he heard less during the testimony phase from someone whom he felt he could rely on for mutual support.

As was expected, the experts called to testify either sided in favor or against finding alternatives to improving detention practices.

Yet, a startlingly honest revelation made by Chris Crane, vice president of Detention and Removal Operations, made it clear that Souder may have nothing to fear in the success of any reform measure.

No checks and balances currently exist within ICE. ICE investigates itself. Because ICE investigates itself there is no transparency and there is no reform or improvement. ICE managers have complete control over the investigative process. The end result has been that both ineffective supervisors and supervisors engaged in misconduct are not disciplined, retain their positions and are regularly promoted.

ICE employees who voice their concerns about general problems, formally report more serious matters for investigation, or participate in the Union are relentlessly retaliated against by Agency managers who rely on the ICE internal investigative process as a tool for retaliation.

The result has been a consistent decline in employee morale and widespread fear among employees to report wrongdoing. This contributes to the large scale inefficiency that presently exists with the Agency. It is our opinion that any attempts to reform the detention system will be unsuccessful without reforms that hold ICE managers accountable and protect employees from retaliation.

Also in his testimony, Crane referred to the misconduct and assaults committed against detainees from contract ICE workers. His one question was “What is ICE doing to stop these problems?”

Crane’s testimony underscores the fact that before real reform can be implemented, the systemic problems that have been allowed to flourish within ICE need to be acknowledged and corrected.

Because it’s clear, from Crane’s testimony, that employees who feel they can cheat or manipulate the system wouldn’t honor any changes meant to improve the process.

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