Washington D.C. – Yesterday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced efforts to “enhance oversight” to help ensure that families are detained in “safe and humane facilities” and in doing so demonstrated no signs of reevaluating its misguided family detention policy. The American Immigration Council welcomes efforts to increase access to legal counsel, improve detention conditions, and provide for more supervisory review of custody determinations, but yesterday’s announcement misses the mark. It is simply unlawful, inhumane, and unnecessary to detain children and mothers on a large scale, and the government must begin taking steps to roll back its strategy of detaining those fleeing violence and persecution.
The administration seems unable or unwilling to acknowledge that these women and children are fleeing undeniable violence in their home countries and that we should be treating them as refugees. We must honor our obligations under international law and must ensure that asylum seekers are afforded basic due process rights, including the right to counsel. Installing additional “oversight mechanisms” will not remedy the injustices taking place in our rapidly expanding family detention system. The only viable option is for the government to end the shameful practice of detaining these families and redirect the time and resources of the agency toward release or, when necessary, the investment in viable, less expensive alternatives to detention that are safer, effective and more humane.