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Immigration Law

ICE Quietly Lowers (Already Low) Standards at Some Immigration Jails

Isabela Dias, Texas Observer, Jan. 21, 2020

"On December 19, during the news lull just before the holidays, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made public changes to its National Detention Standards (NDS), which govern the conditions and management of some of its detention facilities. The agency says the updates to the standards streamline its focus on “essential requirements.” But immigrant advocacy groups fear that the changes water down critical protections and allow for looser oversight, threatening the health and safety of roughly one-fifth of all immigrants in detention. 

Among the wide range of changes, ICE broadened the reasons a detainee can be placed in solitary confinement and removed language preventing officers from using “hog-tying, fetal restraints, [and] tight restraints.” The agency also extinguished requirements for new facilities to have outdoor recreation areas and provisions guaranteeing that nonprofit organizations have access to the detention centers. There were also significant revisions to protocols in the case of serious injury, illness, or death, such as allowing guards to notify ICE “as soon as practicable” (as opposed to immediately) that a detainee needs to be transferred to a hospital and removing any mention of how to proceed if a detainee dies during the transfer. Attorneys worry the revised standards will have a real impact on the way immigrants in custody are treated. 

“ICE’s [revised] standards for these detention facilities have weakened protections for immigrant detainees across the board,” said Eunice Cho, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project. 

The new guidelines apply to as many as 140 facilities across the United States, including as many as 18 in Texas. The standards primarily apply to local jails and prisons that have contracted with ICE to rent beds to hold immigrants alongside other inmates."