Menendez, Booker, Colleagues Demand Answers from Trump Administration after Multiple Reports of Inhumane Conditions in Immigrant Detention Centers

Menendez, Booker, Colleagues Demand Answers from Trump Administration after Multiple Reports of Inhumane Conditions in Immigrant Detention Centers

Under Trump Administration Rules, Detained Immigrants Are Reportedly Not Receiving Adequate Medical Attention When They Need It

 

Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and nine of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly demanding answers to a series of urgent questions after multiple reports of inhumane conditions in immigrant detention centers. The Senators have received a number of reports that under the Trump Administration, detained immigrants are not receiving adequate medical attention when they need it.

“We have received multiple reports of detainees ending up hospitalized due to delays in treatment, or because they did not receive needed medication, or because of the lack of treatment plans provided for people with serious mental illness after being released from detention facilities,” the Senators wrote in the letter.

“Earlier this year, our investigation exposed the growing human rights crisis in immigration detention facilities around New York City and documented serious, often life-threatening deficiencies in medical care.  People confined in immigration detention facilities are held solely to ensure they attend future administrative proceedings.  It is not supposed to be punitive.  Many have lived, worked and raised their families in our communities as our neighbors for decades.  They deserve access to basic healthcare in detention.  They are not getting it.  We support the Senators’ advocacy in this matter and hope the Senators’ actions will spur systemic change and restore justice to this vulnerable community. President Trump promises to deport more people; if more people are detained, the threat to their health will only increase,” said Laura Redman, Director of Health Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

“We have heard deeply troubling accounts from community members of the dangerous and unhealthy conditions in immigrant detention facilities. Since October of last year, eight people have died in ICE custody, seven of whom were being held in private, for-profit detention centers. We wholeheartedly support Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to ensure that all detained immigrants receive access to quality healthcare and are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," said Theo Oshiro, Deputy Director, Make the Road New York.

“The lack of transparency around immigration detention and the medical care provided is appalling. The public has a right to know how Homeland Security is using taxpayer funds to maintain a sprawling detention system that too often fails to provide adequate, appropriate care, leading to needless and preventable deaths,” said Grace Meng, Senior Researcher, US Program, Human Rights Watch.


The United States maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world, detaining approximately 380,000 to 442,000 persons per year.

The letter was also signed by: Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.); Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii.); Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.); Tammy Duckworth (D-ill.); Al Franken (D-Minn.); BErnie Sanders (D-Vt.); Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:

 Dear Secretary Kelly:

 The Honorable John F. Kelly

Secretary of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security

3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20528

                

Dear Secretary Kelly:

 

We are writing to express our concerns about reports we have received regarding healthcare access provided to people confined in immigration detention facilities.  As you know, the United States maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world, detaining approximately 380,000 to 442,000 persons per year.[1]  Therefore, we would appreciate if you could explain your policies and practices to provide adequate healthcare access to people in immigration detention.

 As you know, inadequate medical, dental and mental health care provided to detainees present serious risks to their lives and health, causes unnecessary suffering, and in several cases, preventable death.[2]  Domestic standards in U.S. laws—whether through the Constitution or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidelines—provide protections to all immigration detainees regardless of whether or not they have been charged with a crime.  However, we have received multiple reports of detainees ending up hospitalized due to delays in treatment, or because they did not receive needed medication, or because of the lack of treatment plans provided for people with serious mental illness after being released from detention facilities.[3]

 We therefore request that your agency provide a response to these incidents and make plans moving forward, specifically in regards to the following questions:

  1. Please describe your current procedures regarding health intake assessments for newly arrived detainees, and for discharge planning to people released from immigration detention to ensure continuity of care.
  2. Please explain your current procedures for dealing with detainees’ complaints and concerns regarding pain and other acute medical concerns.
  3. How does the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) handle detainees with vital medical treatment needs–such as dialysis and blood transfusions–to ensure that treatment is provided in a timely and consistent manner?
  4. Will preventive care–such as immunization, mammograms, pap smears, and screening for prostate cancer–be provided to long-term detainees in a consistent and timely manner?
  5. For children held in detention with their parents, what appropriate child wellness services are being provided to ensure healthy child development?
  6. Please describe the policies, guidance and procedures, including training, that you have in place to ensure that detainees who are limited English proficient have access to qualified interpreters and translation services when they seek medical services from healthcare professionals.[4]
  7. Given the negative psychological effects of confinement and solitary confinement,[5] what types of access do detainees have to thorough psychiatric evaluations, regular counseling, and comprehensive discharge plans?
  8. How will your agency make efforts to increase transparency in decisions to deny or delay requests for off-site and specialized medical care?
  9. During their time in detention facilities, do detainees have access to exercise and healthy dietary options to prevent the worsening of chronic conditions like diabetes?
  10. Please explain your process for reviewing and auditing individual detention facilities’ provision of medical care, including how often such reviews occur, and what steps are taken where deficiencies are uncovered.

Healthcare access for detainees is one of many concerns we have about immigration detention facilities.  Kindly respond to the questions contained in this letter within 30 days.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  We look forward to hearing from you soon.

 Sincerely,

###

 



[1] Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). Immigration Detention Map & Statistics. http://www.endisolation.org/resources/immigration-detention/

[2] Dickerson, Caitlin. “Trump Plan Would Curtail Protections for Detained Immigrants.” The New York Times, April 14, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/us/detained-immigrants-may-face-harsher-conditions-under-trump.html; Valencia, Milton J. and Sacchetti, Maria. “Out of Sight, Detainees Struggle to be Heard.” Boston Globe, December 10, 2012, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/12/10/secret-prisoners-insensitivity-and-little-public-accountability-lead-misery-immigration-detention/AZ3wnUXvtmUaGDybDHYG5J/story.html

[3] New York Lawyers for Public Interest. 2017. Detained and Denied: Healthcare Access in Immigration Detention. http://www.nylpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/HJ-Health-in-Immigration-Detention-Report_2017.pdf

[4] Flores, Glenn. 2005. “The Impact of Medical Interpreter Services on the Quality of Health Care: A Systematic Review.” Medical Care Research and Review 62(3): 255-299. http://stepup.ucsf.edu/sites/stepup.ucsf.edu/files/The%20Impact%20of%20Medical%20Interpreter%20Services%20on%20the%20Quality%20of%20Health%20Care.pdf

[5] New York Lawyers for Public Interest. 2017. Detained and Denied: Healthcare Access in Immigration Detention. http://www.nylpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/HJ-Health-in-Immigration-Detention-Report_2017.pdf; Planas, Roque. “Immigrant Detainee Dies By Suicide In ICE Custody In Georgia.” Huffington Post, May 16, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/immigrant-detainee-suicide-georgia_us_591b28c9e4b07d5f6ba69077