Friday, February 06, 2009

The Failures of Our Immigration Detention System

New York Times
Published: February 5, 2009
Letter to the Editor:

“Another Jail Death, and Mounting Questions” (news article, Jan. 28) reports yet another detainee death in a facility that contracts with the federal government to hold immigrants facing deportation.

On Jan. 16, you reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had ordered an end to their contract with a Rhode Island detention facility where Hiu Lui Ng, a computer engineer from China, died last year.

The circumstances of these deaths reflect a pervasive problem within the American immigration detention system. A federal investigation into Mr. Ng’s death uncovered a system in which lack of oversight, combined with negligence and hostility toward noncitizens, led to deadly consequences.

This investigation echoes the stories of the more than 80 other immigrants whose deaths have been documented in the last year. Immigrant advocates have long recognized that the system is dysfunctional and dangerous. The National Immigrant Justice Center routinely responds to detainee complaints of lack of access to health care.

It is clear that the failures of the current immigration detention system are widespread and not merely isolated incidents. Congress and the Obama administration must make reform of this broken detention system a priority.

Mary Meg McCarthy
Executive Director
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center
Chicago, Jan. 28, 2009

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