Upcoming National Public Dialogues to Tackle Tough Challenges Facing U.S. Immigration Detention System

Washington, D.C. – In September, Human Rights First will launch a first-of-its-kind series of four national public dialogues designed to tackle tough challenges facing the U.S. immigration detention system. The events will convene experts in immigration detention and criminal justice/corrections, as well as academics, elected leaders, government officials, attorneys, advocates, and those who have experienced first-hand life inside the U.S. immigration detention system. Those assembled will explore ways to improve U.S. immigration detention practices, bring them in line with basic human rights principles and established best practices, and save taxpayer dollars. “Despite promises from our nation’s capital, the U.S. immigration detention system continues to face serious problems. These Dialogues seek to tackle the tough issues head on,” said Human Rights First’s Ruthie Epstein. “We are thrilled to have so many thoughtful and experienced stakeholders willing to come to the table to find real solutions that we can take back to Washington as the next administration starts its term.” Human Rights First notes that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds the overwhelming majority of the nearly 400,000 asylum seekers and other immigrants it detains annually – under civil immigration law authority – in jails and jail-like facilities across the country. That costs taxpayers approximately $2 billion each year. In 2009, ICE announced plans for a wide-reaching overhaul of the nation’s sprawling and mismanaged immigration detention system. While the agency has taken significant steps forward, including the establishment of an online detainee locator, an improved parole policy for detained asylum seekers, the development of a risk assessment tool, and stronger internal oversight mechanisms, these changes are a far cry from the transformation contemplated three years ago. This series of Dialogues is designed to culminate with a set of recommendations – based in best practices and lessons learned from across the country – to guide ICE in its efforts to realize the full breadth of its promised changes. The upcoming day-long events, Dialogues on Detention: Applying Lessons from Criminal Justice Reform to the Immigration Detention System, will take place across the nation in locations near dense concentrations of ICE detention facilities. The Public Dialogues Series will kick off on September 12 at the University of Texas at Austin. That event will be followed by gatherings at the University of California – Irvine (Sept. 24), Arizona State University (Oct. 12), and Loyola University in New Orleans (Oct. 26). Human Rights First will then host a culminating event in early 2013 to bring the lessons learned across the country and specific policy recommendations back to policy leaders and the next administration in Washington, D.C. The Dialogues will seek to help re-shape the national conversation on immigration detention, build alliances among stakeholders, and lay the groundwork for future improvements in policy and practice. The events will focus on four issues: conditions of confinement, mandatory detention and mandatory minimum sentencing, alternatives to detention, and access to quality legal representation.  Concerns that are most salient locally and regionally will shape the conversation in each location. Among those confirmed to participate in the Dialogues are Judge M. Margaret McKeown, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California – Irvine School of Law; Dr. Dora Schriro, New York City Commissioner of Correction; Oren Root, Director of Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Immigration and Justice; Steve J. Martin, former General Counsel of the Texas prison system; James Austin, corrections management and planning consultant; Ahilan T. Arulanantham, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California; Ana Yanez-Correa, Executive Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition; Texas State Representative Jerry Madden (R-67), Chairman of the House Corrections Committee; Arizona State Representative John Kavanagh (R-8); and senior ICE officials. Human Rights First is a national leader in monitoring U.S. immigration detention practices and advocating with policymakers for common-sense reforms. In October 2011, the organization released “Jails and Jumpsuits: Transforming the U.S. Immigration Detention System – A Two-Year Review,” a report that outlined steps that the administration should take to end its reliance on facilities with conditions that are inappropriate for asylum seekers and other civil immigration law detainees, and to bring U.S. detention practices into compliance with international human rights standards


Published on August 30, 2012


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