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Immigrant Detention Violating Medical Care Standards and Humane Living Conditions

by Jennifer Baldé on August 3, 2009

In an effort to protect and defend their human rights, dozens of immigration detainees being held in a Basile, Louisiana, immigration detention center have engaged in a multi-day hunger strike in protest of inhumane and unsanitary conditions.

Over the past month, immigration detainees have recorded dozens of complaints and made serious allegations of violations that, if proven, would violate the Department of Homeland Security’s National Detention Standards.

While the medical care standards (pdf) mandate that DHS treat immigration detainees' “health care needs...in a timely and efficient manner,” a New Orleans-based immigrant rights organization reports (pdf) that the Basile detainees, many of whom suffer from chronic illnesses, were never examined upon arrival at the detention center, and their conditions continue to deteriorate while in DHS custody.

One detainee who reports that he suffers from chronic leukemia and diabetes says,

When I came to this detention center, no one gave me a medical examination. I informed them that I had leukemia and diabetes. I have never had a blood test for my diabetes, and I’m only given a blood sugar test once a month.

Detainees also allege unsanitary living conditions, overcrowded and poorly ventilated living spaces, inappropriate food and clothing, and short supply of personal hygiene items. DHS needs to undertake a detailed investigation of these allegations. Taken together they may constitute violations of the rights of detainees to be held in humane environments that protect their health.

Over the past several years, stories of inhumane detention conditions like the ones from Basile have become more and more common. PHR, along with dozens of other national and local human rights and immigrant rights organizations, have signed a letter (pdf) urging Congress to support legislation to overhaul the immigration detention system and standards by which immigration detainees are treated.

On July 31, US Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Gillibrand (D-NY) unveiled legislation aimed at establishing in statute minimum procedures and standards of treatment for those impacted by immigration enforcement and detention operations. They also introduced legislation to set minimum detention standards.

Introducing this legislation is a step in the right direction. DHS must systematically overhaul the immigration detention system and put a mechanism in place to enforce standards of conditions and treatment of immigration detainees.


Places: United States

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