The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) released a report finding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detention facilities are violating their own standards when it comes to housing immigrants. The OIG, which serves as a watchdog division for DHS at large, found that ICE was not providing enough protection of detainees’ basic rights while in detention.
The DHS OIG announced in March of last year that they would be launching unannounced inspections of ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. The announcement came after a collection of reports by the American Immigration Council and other immigrants’ rights groups noted the horrible conditions that exist in ICE and CBP detention facilities.
This inspection report is the first to be published since OIG’s announcement and looks at the conditions of six different ICE detention facilities, three of which are run by private prison companies.
Some of the most outrageous violations found by the DHS OIG include:
- Medical care is not provided in a timely manner and not properly documented.
- Absence of cleanliness, including mold and insufficient supply of basic hygienic supplies.
- Potentially unsafe food handling, including spoiled and moldy produce, as well as expired frozen food including meat.
- Improper treatment of detainees by facility staff which fostered a culture of disrespect and disregard for detainees’ basic rights.
- Language barriers obstructing communication and understanding including, at three facilities, detainees not given detainee handbooks in a language they could understand. Language barriers preventing detainees from understanding medical staff who did not provide consent forms in Spanish and did not use available language translation services.
This report comes at a time when Congress is debating the level of funding for the government, including the DHS OIG. Unfortunately, the Senate DHS appropriations bill would currently cut the OIG budget by 30%.
The Trump administration is seeking to expand immigration detention and staffing for ICE and CBP. This is the time to increase the budget for oversight and accountability for the Inspector General. Hopefully, as Congress decides how to fund DHS for the rest of the year, this will become a priority.