The USian Immigrations and Customs Enforcement service has recently revised the rules applying to immigrants detained and awaiting their deportation hearings. Most notably for me, they’ve strengthened the absolutely shit regulations regarding sexual abuse in detention.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (which is already inadequate, but at least it’s a step) does not apply to ICE detention centers, which means that there is almost no meaningful steps taken to end the sexual abuse of prisoners. 180 sexual abuse complaints have been reported since 2007, a number that almost certainly undercounts the number of people abused, since many do not speak English and aren’t aware of their rights or are afraid to exercise them for fear of deportation.
The new ICE regulations are supposed to improve supervision of detainees and make it easier to report. Detainees who report sexual abuse will have their names disclosed on a strictly need-to-know basis; retaliation is forbidden; staff will be trained in sexual abuse prevention; all facilities will be required to have policies regarding sexual assault. However, they have several glaring flaws:
- Little coordination about sexual abuse prevention.
- No mandatory background checks for employees.
- No anonymous reporting of sexual abuse.
- No guidelines about how to prevent retaliation for reporting abuse.
- No specific, mandated procedures about how to conduct sexual abuse investigations.
- No required advanced training for medical staff or sexual abuse investigators.
- Upper management not required to oversee investigations or look for ways to prevent abuse.
- Unannounced rounds, which have been shown to reduce occurrence of sexual assault and harassment, are not required.
Don’t get me wrong, this is all a good first step. But it’s only a first step. Everyone– whether documented or undocumented– deserves a life free of sexual abuse. It’s time to put some pressure on Congress and the president to create regulations that will help to end sexual abuse in immigration detention centers.
Also, a “fuck you too” to the congressional Republicans, who have accused the new regulations– which, in addition to sexual abuse protection, also give immigrants access to medical care, their families, and legal help– of “coddling illegals.” Representative Lamar Smith of Texas says they make immigration detention “a holiday.” Because God forbid detained undocumented immigrants should be able to get counselling for their mental illnesses and regular exercise, right?
Dude. Basic human rights are not a HOLIDAY. They are the basic expectation.