Immigration and Customs Enforcement has lowered its standards for detaining migrants, the Texas Observer reported. Among other revisions, the new standards expand the reasons detainees can be placed in solitary confinement and remove restrictions that banned officers from using restraint methods including “hog-tying, fetal restraints, [and] tight restraints.” ICE also now allows for handcuffing of minors “as appropriate.”
In addition, ICE also got rid of the requirement that new facilities have outdoor recreation areas, as well as revised protocols on how quickly the guards need to notify agencies of serious injuries, illnesses, or deaths among detainees. Instead of requiring guards — many of whom don’t work for ICE but for private contractors — to report these immediately, the new standards state it should be done “as soon as practicable.” Health assessments of detainees, which the ACLU calls a “critical life-saving mechanism,” will no longer comply with national correctional standards. This is especially concerning because many immigrants come to detention centers with health concerns, and some have died in custody of communicable diseases like the flu.
The changes were made publicly, but the announcement was made during a holiday period when fewer people are reading the news. In a document explaining the revisions, ICE said that the standards were “updated to better reflect the strong relationship ICE has with its law enforcement partners, including where detention facilities successfully manage their own populations and are willing to assist ICE with housing immigration detainees.”
The weaker standards will help local jails and prisons pass ICE inspection, which will allow them to continue contracting with the agency and taking agency funds. The revisions, as outlined by the ACLU, also water down guarantees that allow nonprofit organizations access to the approximately 140 immigration detention facilities across the United States.
“The way that the new national detention standards are structured, it removes any incentive to really provide the minimal care and oversight necessary for detainees,” Eunice Cho, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project told the Observer. Cho also said that “ICE’s [revised] standards for these detention facilities have weakened protections for immigrant detainees across the board.”