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Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) applauds the reintroduction of the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act, H.R. 1215, and calls on Congress and the Obama Administration to take swift action to support the legislation to help restore justice to the U.S. immigration system.

"The Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act is a common sense, cost-effective approach to immigration enforcement that underscores American traditions of promoting justice and protecting human rights," said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, National Immigrant Justice Center.

The Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act, introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), would improve immigrant detainees' access to legal counsel and medical care and improve oversight of the immigrant detention system. More than 300,000 men and women were detained in U.S. government facilities or county jails in 2007. These individuals sought protection in the U.S. or were awaiting a deportation proceeding.

More than 80 immigrant men and women have died in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Stories of medical neglect, denial of access to legal counsel, and other violations continue to emerge as jails and detention centers overflow with immigrant men, women, and children. On any given day, approximately 33,000 immigrants are detained.

"This unchecked growth of the immigrant detention system, coupled with a lack of oversight and accountability, must be stopped," said McCarthy. "We look forward to President Obama's commitment to transparency and accountability throughout his administration and welcome Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano's steps to evaluate many of the harsh arrest and detention policies of the previous administration. The bill provides Congress the opportunity to restore human rights and due process to the immigrant detention system."

Key provisions of the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act will:

  • Require DHS to improve its current detention standards and codify those standards in law. While DHS's current detention standards include positive guidelines regarding access to legal materials and legal assistance, as well as access to working telephones that allow detainees to communicate with lawyers and family members, in many facilities, these standards are not enforced.
  • Improve current standards by prohibiting overcrowding in detention facilities and including more specific requirements to ensure that all detainees are treated humanely.
  • Require DHS to use secure alternatives to detention for those immigrants who pose no threat to our communities and are not flight risks.
  • Increase protections for unaccompanied immigrant children who are placed in the custody of the federal government.

 

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