LatinaLista — With the nation’s attention turned towards one aspect of the immigration problem — state legislation like AZ SB 1070 — it’s easy to be distracted from some of the other issues that are impacting undocumented immigrants as a result of our immigration procedures.
One of those is the treatment of female immigrants awaiting deportation.
It seems that recently a guard at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center was fired and the company he works for put on probation for not following “ICE-mandated procedures.” The guard’s employer, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), is not a stranger to such gross violations committed by some of their employees.
A letter that was sent by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the CCA and acquired by the Associated Press said that the DHS was levying a fine against the CCA.
In other reports, it’s said that the DHS has ordered the CCA to not allow male guards to be alone with female detainees. It’s also being reported that ICE officials are increasing their “monitoring of its largest detention centers, removing that role from private companies that operate the facilities under contract with ICE.”
All of these actions are good but when Sec. Napolitano assumed her position with DHS and made her appointments (most of whom seemed to be old friends from Arizona), the impression was that these changes had already been made.
Before Napolitano was even appointed as Sec. of DHS by President Obama, stories of rape, neglect and emotional abuse by guards working for CCA at various detention centers were surfacing. It was one of the main issues that some tried to bring to the attention of Napolitano and the Obama administration.
There were promises that these violations would stop and things would change.
Now, it’s known that things never really changed.
What happened to these women was preventable if DHS and the Obama administration made detention facilities and procedures more transparent.
Once undocumented immigrants are caught and waiting deportation, they are cut off from everyone — that shouldn’t be the case, especially since the number of cases awaiting resolution in the federal immigration detention system has reached an all-time high as reported by The Texas Tribune.
That means these people can be locked behind walls, cut off from family, friends and a concerned public, for months — with nobody, aside their lawyers, knowing anything about them.
The changes that need to be done with our immigrant detention procedures so gross violations of those detained don’t happen again don’t need an act of Congress to get it done.
They need a Department of Homeland Security who is sincere in fulfilling a promise to instill change and greater oversight over the detention facilities.
They need a President to extend the same transparency to a system that is allowed to be abusive because it hides behind a fake veil of privacy for detainees.
They need a President who can take the first step in humanizing treatment of detained immigrants by allowing for visitation by family and friends at these detention centers and have, as part of the protocol, families notified when detainees are moved or deported.
For real change to occur at these immigrant detention facilities, immigration reform is needed to be addressed and passed in Congress.