NEWARK — The current immigrant detention system in the United States is deeply flawed, and New Jersey’s newest detention facility proof that federal reforms are falling short, immigration advocates said Friday at a conference on the issue.
A report by a coalition of immigration rights groups and New York University’s law focused on conditions at an immigration detention facility in Essex County as emblematic of problems with immigration detention system nationwide.
The report finds that despite the emphasis by President Barack Obama’s administration on reforming the civil detention system, facilities like the one in Essex County fail to meet several detention standards for immigrants, issued in 2008 and 2011 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which cover everything from access to attorneys to recreation and health care.
“We feel this is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s occurring,” said Alina Das, co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at NYU’s law school, who worked on the report. “We’re very concerned about the conditions in New Jersey.”
In New Jersey, the report’s authors said they received more than 200 detainee grievances from the newly expanded detention facility at the Essex County Correctional Facility and nearby, privately operated Delaney Hall. Arguing that the facilities do not fully comply with ICE standards, the report documents problems with everything from access to legal assistance and worship services to adequate health care, food and other basic services for detainees.
The concern, Das said, is that federal immigration authorities have touted the new agreement between ICE and Essex County to expand detention bed space in the New York metropolitan area, as well as a new facility opened this month in Karnes City, Texas, as more humane, reform-minded facilities.
“Whatever Delaney Hall is, it’s not a model detention facility,” Das said.
ICE Spokesman Harold Ort said the agency has made “tremendous strides” toward reforming the immigration detention system, including the hiring of more than 40 detention services managers to increase oversight at detention facilities and conduct inspections and regular visits.