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Agency Must Quickly Appoint New Director of Detention Policy and Planning

The Department of Homeland Security’s announcement of the resignation of Dr. Dora Schriro, director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, leaves a critical post vacant only weeks after the agency announced a series of detention reforms intended to improve oversight of the more than 300 detention centers and county jails that hold more than 400,000 immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security must act swiftly to identify a new director and to continue the momentum gained during recent weeks.

 

Department of Homeland Security Must Maintain Positive Momentum Toward Immigration Detention Reform

Agency Must Quickly Appoint New Director of Detention Policy and Planning

Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy
Executive Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center

CHICAGO (September 9, 2009) – The Department of Homeland Security’s announcement of the resignation of Dr. Dora Schriro, director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, leaves a critical post vacant only weeks after the agency announced a series of detention reforms intended to improve oversight of the more than 300 detention centers and county jails that hold more than 400,000 immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security must act swiftly to identify a new director and to continue the momentum gained during recent weeks.

Dr. Schriro’s appointment in August represented the first steps by the Department of Homeland Security to address concerns that the National Immigrant Justice Center and other advocates had worked for years to bring to the agency’s attention. She not only listened, but cared when we discussed human rights abuses in the detention system, the need to improve detainees’ access to legal counsel and medical care, and the urgent need for increased oversight.

Before she was appointed to lead the Office of Detention Policy and Planning, Dr. Schriro served as a special advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and led an investigation of the immigration detention system. Over the course of her investigation, Dr. Schriro visited detention facilities around the country, meeting with detainees, lawyers, and experts from non-governmental organizations to learn how the significant and recent growth of the detention system had jeopardized detainees’ basic rights such as access to legal counsel and medical care. Dr. Schriro’s recommendations at the end of that process became the basis for the detention reforms announced last month, including the creation of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning.

While we will miss her leadership and passion, we look forward to the Department of Homeland Security acting without delay to appoint a successor of Dr. Schriro’s caliber.

 

Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit www.immigrantjustice.org