Thousands of detained immigrants are parents of American citizens

An ICE detainee rests his hands on the window of his cell in the segregation wing at the Adelanto immigration detention center, which is run by the Geo Group Inc, in Adelanto, California, on April 13, 2017. (Photo credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

New data analysis reveals that more than 10,000 parents of US citizen children are most likely detained every year by immigration authorities, in California alone, and many are held under inhumane conditions and with dangerously subpar health care.

In light of new Trump administration policies likely to boost detention and deportation, Human Rights Watch says the state of California should act to ensure that detained migrants are held in dignified and humane conditions and have access to lawyers.

The Human Rights Watch report, “‘I Still Need You’: The Detention and Deportation of Californian Parents,” is based on data obtained from federal immigration authorities that covers nearly 300,000 federal detentions of immigrants in facilities in California over a four-and-a-half-year span.

Over that period, an average of about 65,000 immigrants a year were detained in California in 15 facilities and evidence suggests that almost half were parents of children who are US citizens.


Although most of the records do not specify whether detainees have children who are American citizens, those for the nine-month span from October 2014 to June 2015, generally do, and statistical methods can reliably fill the gaps. Analyzing the records for that nine-month span, Human Rights Watch found that nearly half – 42 percent – of detainees had US citizen children.

“The rights of immigrants in the United States, including the parents of US citizens, are under greater threat than ever, especially people held in the immigration detention system,” said Clara Long, researcher in the US program at Human Rights Watch.

The need for human rights safeguards for detained immigrants is acute, Human Rights Watch said.

The Trump administration has signaled its intention to place more people in a detention system that is notorious for its punitive and often inhumane conditions, including subpar medical care, which has contributed to deaths in custody that might have been prevented. In the context of the existing due process crisis in immigration adjudications, the administration has also announced plans to expand fast-track deportation procedures that have demonstrably harmed asylum seekers’ and others’ ability to get fair hearings.

Another new Human Rights Watch report, “Systemic Indifference: Dangerous & Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention,” has documented the dangerously subpar health care – including mental health care – that many people receive in immigration detention.

The report reveals systemic failures, such as unreasonable delays in care and unqualified medical staff, that are likely to expose a record number of people to dangerous conditions under President Donald Trump’s ramped-up deportation and detention plans.

Detainees have even died from treatable diseases like diabetes, pneumonia, and staph infections.


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