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New report highlights shortfalls in Arizona detention facilities holding immigrant women

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.
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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
A was detained while six months pregnant. She spent over a month in detention, and during this time was unable to receive appropriate prenatal  care, including  monitoring  of  a  potentially  dangerous  ovarian  cyst, prenatal vitamins, or extra padding for her bed.Â
Mixing women immigration detainees with people serving criminal sentences
T was one of many women who described being terrified of the federal prisoners in her cell block. She  routinely skipped meals for fear of encountering them in the dining hall.  Â
Family separation
The majority of women interviewed were separated from at least one U.S. citizen child under the age of 10.Â
The majority of women interviewed were transferred to Arizona from out of state. As a result, they were hundreds or at times thousands of miles away from their families and communities during their time 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.
For example,
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.

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  • Sandra
    January 22, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    For the hundreth time, they aren’t immigrants, they are illegal alien immigration law breakers.

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