Asylum News 65
Medical Care Deficient in U.S. Detention Asylum seekers and other immigrants in U.S. detention face deficiencies in medical care and treatment, according to an extensive Washington Post series entitled “Careless Detention: Medical Treatment of Immigrants.” The four-part series, published on May 11-14, 2008, documents the impact of U.S. detention policies on the physical and mental health of immigrants who are in immigration jails, including several deaths in the years since the creation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The series, and its companion 60 Minutes piece, featured an HRF pro bono attorney and her refugee client. Impact on asylum seekers and immigrants documented by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes Listen to HRF pro bono attorney and refugee client HRF Welcomes Introduction of Detainee Basic Medical Care Act Human Rights First welcomes the introduction of two bills to improve the delivery of medical and mental health care for detained immigrants and asylum seekers. The first, called the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008 (HR 5950), was introduced on May 1, 2008, by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a companion bill, S 3005, on May 12, 2008. The bills call on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop procedures for adequate medical care for immigration detainees, including timely examinations and assessments by qualified health care professionals. In addition, the bills require DHS to report detainee deaths to the Inspector General at DHS and at the Department of Justice. Read the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008 (HR 5950) Read the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008 (S 3005) Read letter to DHS Secretary Chertoff from advocacy groups To learn more, click here. HRF Staff Visits Texas Detention Centers Last week, HRF visited two of the largest immigration detention centers in the country, accompanied by a delegation of pro bono lawyers, clergy, and representatives of community and faith-based groups. The two sites visited were the Willacy Detention Center, which opened in August 2006 and includes 10 tent-like structures with a capacity of up to 2,000 detainees, and the Pearsall Immigration Detention Center, a detention center created in 2005 with a capacity of up to 1,904 detainees. By coincidence the visit fell just a week after a series of investigative reports by the Washington Post had documented the shocking medical and mental health care deficiencies that affect asylum seekers and immigrants who are detained at these and other immigration facilities. Each facility had only a few attorney visiting rooms, and both facilities were placed in areas that lacked adequate pro bono legal resources to assist indigent immigrants held at the facilities. In each of the “courtrooms” in these facilities, a television sat rather than a live immigration judge. Instead, the immigration judges conduct asylum and other hearings by video. HRF will be reporting more on its concerns about these facilities over the next few months. To read the HRF blog on the visit, click here. New Film The Visitor Explores Impact of Immigrant Detention The Visitor, an Overture Films production released on April 11, 2008, shines a light on the U.S. detention of asylum seekers and other immigrants. The film explores both the impact of encounters and relationships between people of diverse backgrounds while also examining the difficult issue of immigrant detention in the U.S. For more information on The Visitor, click here.