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The Advocates Welcomes Shift in Immigration Detention Policy, Cautions the Need for Greater Reform
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Michele Garnett McKenzie
Advocacy Director
(w) 612-341-3302, ext. 117
mmckenzie@advrights.org

Robin Phillips
Executive Director
(w) 612-341-3302, ext. 109
rphillips@advrights.org

Minneapolis (October 7, 2009) – The Advocates for Human Rights welcomes the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) announcement that it intends to take steps to overhaul the immigration detention system. In response to sharp criticism from advocacy groups, community organizations, and government officials, the agency has announced a commitment to improve conditions ­of detainees and expand its use of alternatives to detention for non-criminals.
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“While we are encouraged by the Administration’s decision to move away from total reliance on a penal-based immigration detention system, to achieve the reform the Administration seeks, DHS must do more than improve the existing detention system, it must fundamentally reexamine its reliance on detention as a cornerstone of immigration enforcement,” said The Advocates’ Michele Garnett McKenzie, Advocacy Director.

The United States estimates it will detain over 440,000 people this year in immigration detention, including thousands of asylum seekers. According to Secretary Napolitano, the United States spends approximately $1.8 billion annually on immigration detention. Detained immigrants are often held in remote locations far from their families and have no right to government appointed counsel. Detainees, including children, pregnant women, the elderly, mentally ill and longtime lawful permanent residents, languish in a vast detention system that lacks enforceable standards of care and any independent oversight. improve

While the announcement from DHS is a welcome shift in policy, the agency plans to continue to detain hundreds of thousands of people each year. “We welcome the government's first steps toward reform of the detention model and are committed to engaging in the reform process going forward,” said Andrea Black, network coordinator of the Detention Watch Network, “but we are concerned that the agency, under Secretary Napolitano's leadership, is continuing down the wrong path in its pursuit of heightened enforcement tactics. Absent a fundamental reexamination of who is being targeted for enforcement and how those laws are being enforced, the reforms DHS seeks are not feasible. Expanding an already sprawling detention system through the building of still more facilities will only further worsen the government's management and oversight crisis."

The Advocates for Human Rights works to end arbitrary detention of non-citizens in the United States and to ensure that everyone in U.S. immigration custody is treated humanely and with dignity. The Advocates currently chairs Detention Watch Network (DWN), a coalition of community, faith-based, immigrant and human rights service and advocacy organizations and concerned individuals working to reform the immigration detention and deportation system so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment.

For more information on The Advocates, visit www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org. For more information on the Detention Watch Network and an interactive map of ICE detention centers, go to www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.
 
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