During meetings with Senate and House Democrats over the past month, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly stated that the agency would not expand immigration detention in response to questions from Senator Cory Booker and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Despite the secretary’s statements, DHS has posted online its intention to immediately acquire new bed space to detain 1,188 individuals at a privately run facility.
The United States already operates the largest immigration detention system in the world at a cost of $2 billion annually. Currently, there are an unprecedented 42,000 men, women, and children in detention. In addition, the system is plagued with serious problems related to oversight. In Arizona, there have been 14 deaths at the Eloy Detention Center since October 2004—more than any other detention facility in the country. Despite the government’s death reviews documenting how subpar medical care has contributed to deaths, the facility remains open and has never failed a facility inspection.
Please join us in sending this bicameral letter demanding that Secretary Kelly clarify his plans and develop a plan to improve the department’s oversight of the detention system. To sign on, please fill out this form: goo.gl/uknm4Y by noon Wednesday, or if you have questions, contact Jennifer Chan (email@example.com) in Rep. Jayapal’s office.
Cory Booker Pramila Jayapal Judy Chu
United States Senator Member of Congress Member of Congress
The Honorable John F. Kelly
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20016
Dear Secretary Kelly:
We write to express our concern about conflicting information we received from you regarding the expansion of immigration detention. During two separate meetings with Senate and House Democrats on March 29 and March 17, you reassured Senator Cory Booker and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would not expand the immigration detention system. But on April 6, we learned that DHS had posted its intention to procure additional detention space with the GEO Group to detain up to 1,188 individuals. This directly contradicts statements you made to Congress.
We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented 42,000 men, women, and children detained by DHS for immigration-related reasons. Detention on such a large scale is unacceptable. In addition, we have long-standing, serious concerns with detention conditions in both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody as well as the agency’s oversight of detention. For instance, there have been 14 deaths at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona since October 2004. Although ICE’s own death reviews have documented the facility’s failure to provide adequate medical care, ICE continues to detain men and women at the facility. Moreover, even as immigration detention has expanded, there are still many facilities operating under the outdated 2000 National Detention Standards and 2008 Performance-Based National Detention Standards.
In order to increase transparency over the detention system, we urge you to communicate with us regarding detention operations and expansions and explore further alternatives to detention, such as release and release on reasonable bond, to help reduce the detained population and develop a concrete oversight plan to protect the human rights of those in detention. In addition to an oversight plan, we would appreciate regular communication about:
- The acquisition or closure of facilities, including details on contractors, number of detention beds, and applicable detention standards.
- Updates on the department’s implementation of the most-recent performance-based detention standards and the Prison Rape Elimination Act standards.
- Monthly reports on the numbers of people detained in CBP and ICE facilities broken down by Area of Responsibility, gender, age, and country of origin.
- Any deaths, suicides, or serious incidents, such as hunger strikes, that occur as well as any written reports on these incidents.
- Any facility inspections that have occurred, including any deficiencies and the manner in which these deficiencies will be addressed.
Given the conflicting messages you have given us on immigration-related detention, we hope that you will respond promptly to clarify exactly how many people are currently detained by DHS, how many additional detention beds you seek to obtain in the future, and clarify the miscommunication as to why we were given inaccurate figures on detention during our separate meetings with you. We ask that you respond no later than Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
We look forward to hearing from you.
 Acquisition Forecast, Department of Homeland Security (accessed Apr. 7, 2017) available at: http://apfs.dhs.gov/forecast/?text_search=&component=310&imcf_form_component=forecast-filter&imcf_label_component=&contract_status=NEW&contract_vehicle=&dollar_range=&imcf_form_naicscodes=forecast-filter&imcf_label_naicscodes=&small_business_program=&apfs_number=F2017036163&page=1&filter_hidden=no&action=none&page_select=-1