By Andres Del Aguila
WASHINGTON – Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), joined by fellow Democratic representatives, introduced legislation Tuesday that will set congressionally dictated national standards for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).
“This legislation is absolutely critical to dismantling Trump’s mass deportation machine, to protecting our families, and to restoring justice and due process to our broken immigration system,” Jayapal told reporters, arguing the current system is “morally and economically wrong.”
In addition to setting standards for facilities and dictating how detainees are treated, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would force the Inspector General of Homeland Security to conduct periodic and unannounced inspections of detention facilities to find threats to the “health, safety and due process rights of detainees.” The bill also mandates that the findings be made public.
ICE did not respond to comment, but insists its standards create a “safe and secure detention environment for staff and detainees” that are consistent with “legal and regulatory requirements,” according to the agency’s website.
The Democratic representatives, however, argued ICE has failed to follow its own standards, citing reports of unjust treatment and prolonged detention brought about by President Donald Trump’s reversal of an Obama-era policy that protected illegal immigrants with no criminal record from deportation.
“More and more individuals, including women and children, are being held in detention centers for unacceptable longer periods of time,” Rep. Lucille Roybald-Allard (D-Calif.) said.
Roybald-Allard argued the “credible reports of mistreatment and lack of adherence to ICE detention policies” indicate the need for reform.
Jayapal added the bill will “overhaul the system” by phasing out the use of private for-profit prisons for ICE detentions.
Sixty-five percent of ICE detainees are held at private for-profit prisons, according to a Homeland Security Advisory 2016 report.
Since Trump took office, ICE arrests rose by nearly 40 percent, according to the agency’s website. And 75 percent of those arrested are convicted criminals.