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Major Overhaul Planned for Immigrant Detention System

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By Kamika Dunlap on January 27, 2010 10:10 AM

Under the current U.S. immigrant detention system, many detainees are denied adequate medical care, face cruel and inhumane conditions and have fallen out of touch with their families.

It's this kind of widespread treatment of detainees that has led the head of U.S. immigration enforcement to announce plans for a major overhaul of the government's controversial detention system, the Arizona Republic reports.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is addressing oversight, medical care and tracking of detainees at facilities.

Families and immigrant-rights attorneys complain they often have trouble finding out where detainees have been taken after they are arrested for immigration violations. They also complain that those in government custody who face deportation have limited access to attorneys, legal materials and telephones.

In some cases, detainees are denied basic fairness including upon their arrival at a new detention center without having been served a notice of why they were being held.

Last year, the Obama administration vowed to overhaul immigration detention, a hodgepodge system of privately run jails, federal centers and county cells where the government holds noncitizens while it tries to deport them.

Here are some of takeaways from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement overhaul plan:

  • Hire 50 federal employees to oversee the largest detention facilities, which now are largely run by contractors.
  • Assign regional case managers to keep tabs on detainees with significant medical problems to ensure they are getting proper care.
  • Launch an online immigrant-detainee locator so family members can easily find their relatives when they are in custody awaiting possible deportation.

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