|For Immediate Release
March 28, 2012
Contact: Jessica Baker, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement
Oversight Hearing on “Holiday on ICE: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s New Immigration Detention Standards”
Chairman Smith: On February 28, 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released about 400 pages of new Performance Based National Detention Standards. But the administration’s new detention manual reads more like a hospitality guideline for illegal immigrants.
According to the preface, the detention standards supposedly “were drafted with the input of many ICE personnel across the nation, as well as the perspectives of nongovernmental organizations.”
But the preface fails to disclose that the union that represents ICE detention officers, who are among those most affected by these new standards, was not a part of a process that will have a large impact on their safety. Neither were advocates for immigration law enforcement or advocates for American taxpayers who will have to pay for the new standards.
Instead, ICE consulted with those who appear to consist primarily of pro-illegal-immigrant groups when it drafted the new detention standards.
Under this administration, detention looks more like recess. While funds for American students’ physical education classes are being cut, the new detention standards expand recreation for illegal immigrants. For instance, illegal and criminal immigrants in ICE custody will have options such as soccer, volleyball and basketball. It would be nice if all American students got those options.
ICE wasted no time in putting their new standards into practice. Immediately following the release of the new detention manual, ICE opened up a new, state-of-the-art detention facility in Karnes City, Texas. The new detention facility was built with specifications set by ICE, which involved limited public scrutiny and no congressional oversight.
Among the new amenities, the Karnes City facility contains a library with free Internet access, cable TV, an indoor gym with basketball courts, soccer fields, and sand and nets for beach volleyball. Instead of guards, unarmed "resident advisers" patrol the grounds. And the cost of the complex? Over $30 million taxpayer dollars.
To make matters worse, the new standards expand a complaint process against ICE officers and facilities.
It offers numerous avenues for complaints, unlike the Bureau of Prisons which has a single streamlined process for complaints. Detained illegal immigrants can complain to ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General, or the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
With no protections against false accusations of abuse filed by detainees, and a process biased against ICE agents, the new detention standards could subject the agency and its employees to constant and frivolous lawsuits.
It’s no surprise that an agency that considers illegal and criminal immigrants it detains as its “customers” ranks 222 out of the 240 government agencies surveyed by the Partnership for Public Service for employee satisfaction.
This hearing is entitled “Holiday on ICE” because ICE has decided to upgrade accommodations for detained illegal and criminal immigrants. While we would all like to be upgraded, we don’t have the luxury of billing American taxpayers or making federal law enforcement agents our concierge. The Obama Administration should put the interests of American taxpayers ahead of illegal and criminal immigrants.