Chicago – The National Immigrant Justice Center hailed the new standards of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for jails where the undocumented are confined awaiting deportation, but said it remains concerned about the rights of detainees.
"Unfortunately, the new standards do not go far enough to protect the rights of all ICE detainees," the Chicago-based NIJC said in a statement.
The organization also complained that ICE "has yet to commit to a timeline for implementation that will ensure immigrants are protected from abuse, neglect, and inhumane conditions."
The center, part of the Heartland Alliance, said it is particularly concerned about the situation in three county jails in the Midwest where ICE detainees are held in "deplorable conditions."
"We have waited several years for these standards, and we are pleased to find they contain some key improvements for which human rights groups have long advocated," NIJC Policy Director Jane Zurnamer said of the new ICE policy.
"But these standards mean nothing if they are not implemented or enforceable," she said.
According to NIJC, ICE announced a timetable to renegotiate contracts with the prisons so they include the new standards.
But it identifies those not respecting the new standards as Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois, Jefferson County Detention Center in Mount Vernon, Illinois, and Boone County Detention Center in Burlington, Kentucky, which were already in breach of the earlier ICE standards.
The three are under the jurisdiction of the ICE office in Chicago, which works with 26 prisons that have a daily average of 200 undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation.
Nor do the immigrant detention centers give evidence of complying with the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, aimed at preventing sexual violence against detainees, Zurnamer said in a communique.
The NIJC, a coalition of numerous defenders of the rights of immigrants and inmates, demands that the government of President Barack Obama include the undocumented among those protected by the act when it goes into effect this year.
More broadly, Zurnamer said, "Congress must pass legislation that includes enforceable protections that fit the civil nature of the immigration system and provisions to punish jails that do not comply."