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Joint statement by the American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Detention Watch Network, Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Open the Government, Project On Government Oversight, Women’s Refugee Commission

Washington, D.C.— Civil society organizations across the country are calling on congressional appropriators to hold U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accountable for violations of congressionally imposed transparency obligations in the ever-expanding immigration detention system.

In March, as Congress passed its spending bill for fiscal year 2018, it placed new public reporting obligations on ICE regarding its detention system. Ten immigrant and civil rights organizations formally highlighted these new obligations in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and acting ICE Director Tom Homan, assuring agency leadership that civil society is watching them closely.

In the past two weeks ICE has faced the first two deadlines among these obligations and has missed both:

  1. ICE failed to publicly post a facilities list containing basic information regarding the jails it uses and their locations and demographic populations, as required by Congress on a monthly basis. ICE was due to publish this document on April 23rd, one month after passage of the appropriations bill.
  2. ICE failed to meet its May 10 deadline to investigate and publish its review of the tragic April 10th death of Mr. Gourgen Mirimanian at a detention center in Texas. Congress’s new reporting requirements oblige the agency to publish a review within 30 days of an in-custody death.

Never has there been a greater need for transparency in the immigration detention system. ICE’s patchwork system of more than 200 jails has long been riddled with abuses, failures of oversight, neglect so severe as to lead to deaths, and endemic sexual violence. DHS’s own internal watchdog agency recently released a report finding the treatment and care at ICE facilities so lacking as to “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.” In recent months the administration has unleashed a string of new policies that funnel increasingly vulnerable populations into this broken system. These policies include the intentional jailing of more pregnant women and the unapologetic separation of mothers and fathers from their children, sending them into ICE custody after they are criminally prosecuted for the act of migration.

We call on appropriators to hold ICE accountable and insist the agency meet these congressionally mandated transparency requirements.