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Members of the U.S. Congress have a significant opportunity to restore decency and end the human rights violations inside immigrant detention centers in the United States by supporting the Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act, S. 1594, which was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Joseph Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).

The National Immigrant Justice Center has joined with a broad coalition of faith-based, human rights, and community organizations in support of the Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act.

“As the Department of Homeland Security expands Bush-era enforcement policies that lead to further growth of the already bloated detention population, it has become clear that the only way to ensure that the U.S. immigrant detention system abides by basic standards of human rights is for Congress to pass legislation that will hold DHS accountable,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center.

According to a press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs , the Secure and Save Detention and Asylum Act would require:

  • Improved detention conditions, including prompt medical care that complies with accreditation requirements, unobstructed access to legal counsel, limits on the use of solitary confinement and other punitive treatment, and special standards for families and for victims of persecution and torture
  • Review by an immigration judge within two weeks of a detention decision, with consideration for release if the detainee poses no flight risk, no threat to public safety or national security, and for humanitarian reasons
  • Expanded alternatives to detention such as supervised release programs
  • Quality assurance measures, such as the recording of interviews conducted during expedited removal proceedings, to ensure that asylum seekers with a credible fear of persecution are not returned to their countries without a review of their cases
  • The reporting and investigation of all deaths that occur in detention facilities, and more vigorous scrutiny of facilities by a newly established Office of Detention Oversight
  • Restrictions on the circumstances in which families with minor children can be detained

Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center applauds recent action by the U.S. Senate to address the broken detention system. The Protect Citizens from Unlawful Detention Act (S. 1549) and The Strong Safe Treatment, Avoiding Needless Deaths, and Abuse Reduction in the Detention System (STANDARDS) Act (S. 1550), two other Senate bills introduced this month, together with the Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act represent significant concrete steps toward restoring humanity to the U.S. immigration system.


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