March 17, 2011
PHOENIX (Reuters)- Immigrants detained in the United States lack adequate access to legal representation and medical care, while the system itself is over reliant on detention, a human rights report released on Thursday found.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights study -- "Immigration in the United States: Detention and Due Process" -- examined the U.S. federal government's immigration enforcement and detention system.
It drew on research including visits to six immigration detention facilities in Arizona and Texas in July 2009, since when the U.S. federal government has announced its own comprehensive review of the immigration enforcement system.
"The IACHR is troubled by the lack of a genuinely civil detention system, where the general conditions are commensurate with human dignity and humane treatment," the report said.
The Commission "is also disturbed by the impact that detention has on due process, mainly with respect to the right to an attorney which, in turn, affects one's right to seek release." it added.
The IACHR, a body within the Washington-based Organization of American States, said it was "disturbed" that detention management and care was frequently outsourced to private contractors, while "insufficient information is available concerning the mechanisms in place to supervise" them.
The report also singled out concern over what it said were apparently insufficient numbers of medical personnel to attend to immigrants as the federal detention system underwent expansion to its current 30,000-bed capacity from fewer than 7,500 in 1995.
It said detention was a "disproportionate measure" in most instances, and argued noncustodial alternatives would be "a more balanced means of serving the state's legitimate interest in ensuring compliance with immigration law."
Reuters contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, but a request for comment was not immediately returned.
The study noted that the Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE, issued a report in October 2009 that identified some of the same concerns raised by the study.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)
Note: The report can be read here.