Introduction

A growing problem is the unfair treatment of immigrants in immigration detention facilities. Persons who are in these facilities are denied rights and often are held for unreasonable amounts of time. In facilities people are also neglected and have prudent amount of food and limited access to recreations. Many organizations are fighting this injustice such as Southwest Institutes for Research on Women (SIROW) who focuses mainly on women. These organizations provide statistics and recommendations to help improve conditions in detention facilities. The government agency who plays a major role in this injustice is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). All of the Interviewees’ names were censored to protect their identities. (The Unseen Prisoner by the University of Arizona January 2009). (Link to video)


There are over 28000 illegal immigrates who are in detention centers throughout the country. According to SIROW, there are over three hundred and fifty different facilities, and Arizona alone has five. These five facilities hold over three thousand detainees and growing. Many facilities are owned by a company called Corrections Corporation of America which is a for-profit company. These facilities lack many necessities an average person would require; people described surroundings as confined with lack of food limit and “a complete absence of programming and activities” many are routinely strip searched and shackled while being transported. (SIROW, January 2009) These facilities also lack sufficient medical care.


The detention centers lack safety for immigrants who did not commit criminal offenses. Various immigrants interviewed were unable to use a telephone to call their families for weeks following their arrival to the detention center. Many were unable to attain legal counsel because of the fact that many did not know English. “They described exorbitant rates for phone calls, including calls to attorneys and consulates...The legal materials provided in the facilities are limited and some are only available in English.” (The Unseen Prisoner by the University of Arizona January 2009).

This shows that the facilities do not wish for the immigrants to obtain legal counsel to prevent them from getting out. Many women who are in detention centers are escaping their abusive husbands and get separated from their children who they are trying to bring to the United States.


    This also demonstrates that immigrants in the detention centers are essentially incapable of getting legal help. The University of Arizona’s Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) is one organization who focuses on unfair treatment in immigration detention centers. SIROW interviewed over forty people who know about the Detention centers including previously detained detainees, attorneys, and social services providers who have worked with detainees. With the help of Bacon Immigration Law and Policy Program of James E. Rogers College of Law, SIROW came with recommendations, concerns and conditions that could better improve environment in immigration detention centers. SIROW wants Congress to get rid or decrease the statutory grounds of mandatory detention and amend immigration laws to give all detainees with the opportunity to appeal to a judge where they circumstances can be measured. They also suggest that ICE and Child Protective Services should “develop policies to facilitate parent detainees’ ability to communicate about custody issues” this would help prevent unfortunate events that happen to detainees. SIROW also would like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE to require Officers and Facility Personnel to be trained to recognize and respond appropriately to “survivors of domestic and sexual violence and gender-based persecution.” (A report on Women in Immigration Detention Facilities in Arizona, January 2009)


SIROW’s concerns range from medical care to security to food. SIROW believes that the DHS should legally be required to provide detainees with medical care and Respond to medical request in a timely manner. Another concern is security and the safety of the detainees. SIROW wants ICE to “increase the use of community-based alternatives to the detention of nonviolent detainees who pose minimal security or flight risk.” And “limited the use of shackles and eliminate it altogether for pregnant detainees” SIROW also believes that detainees should be ensured the right to place one free domestic telephone call upon arrival to a detention center, also the detainees should be excused from phone card systems with exorbitant rates. SIROW’s recommendations also call for a means to obtaining food after 4p.m. and improving the quality of the food.

According to SIROW, SIROW sent a report to the Field Director of ICE in the company of a invitation to a “roundtable discussion” on the information that was found and many among many recommendations to help make detention centers suitable. ICE originally declined to the invitation, but the Field Officer Director and ten other ICE representatives agreed to meet. At the meeting ICE officials claimed that many of the information were NOT legitimate and stressed their commitment to providing excellent treatment for the detainees. At the time publication of the Unseen Prisoner report no action from ICE has been clear to see whether they will take an initiative to take better care of their detainees.


Government policies are negatively affecting our injustice. It overlooks the unfair treatment and the disregard for every day needs. Government programs such as The Department of Homeland Security and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement focuses so much on catching illegal immigrants that they do not or choose not to see the injustice that is spreading. For-Profit companies such as Corrections Corporation of America are there to make money off the detainees and make money on how many detainees they contain. This results in immigrants receiving unfair treatments.To Learn more about the history on Detention Centers click Here. For Stories in detention centers click here.


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