Immigrant Detention CampsImmigrant detention camps are run by governments all over the world to hold immigrants, refugees and any asylum seekers. Many of these immigrants are fleeing to other countries to escape from violent and inhumane conditions in their home countries. Most governments have their own regulations on how to treat immigrants and what they have access to. More recently, the conditions in which immigrants are treated in detention camps in the United States raises questions about whether or not the U.S. detention camps should be considered concentration camps. Here are five facts about the conditions of immigrant detention camps.

5 Facts About the Conditions of Immigrant Detention Camps

  1. Overcrowding is a major problem with detention camps and is one of the main reasons illnesses are easily spread. Detention camps recently have been seen to hold over 40 detainees in cells built for eight people. Others report that detainees are standing on top of toilets to make room for people shoved into one cell. Overcrowding in detention camps is a health risk not just because of the ease of illness spreading, but also because of the lack of space for detainees to sit or rest apart from one another in the cells.
  2. There are multiple detention camps throughout the U.S. that do not have access to medical care for detainees. Without access to medical care, many immigrants, especially children, fall ill. With overcrowding, these illnesses are spreading and are hard to contain. Many times workers do not take sick detainees to hospitals for medical care. This increases the likeliness of illnesses spreading and increases the risk of death. According to a recent report, approximately seven children have died in the last year in detention camps.
  3. Many detention camps lack access to clean water or any water at all. Reports say that accessible water for detainees has foul odors and is discolored. Additionally, trying to get water to drink or shower is nearly impossible as a result of overcrowding. Other reports say children claim they do not have water to brush their teeth or shower in their cells. One reporter even stated that as soon as he walked into one detention camp, the smell as a result of those who could not shower was immediately apparent.
  4. Because of the lack of access to clean water, access to other basic sanitation in detention camps is limited. Some women report not having access to menstrual sanitation products. Plus, some mothers report not having access to a place where they can clean baby bottles. Because some detainees are standing on toilets due to overcrowding, access to bathrooms is limited, causing sanitary conditions in the cells to grow even worse.
  5. Many children in immigrant detention camps are separated from their families. Some children are in foster families. Others are held in detention camps until they are placed with adult relatives who are not in detention camps or until they turn 18. The separation of families is scarring, especially for young children who may not understand why they are being separated.

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2019 is sponsored by New Jersey Sen. Cory A. Booker and is currently in rotation with the Senate. This act sets stricter standards for immigrant detention camps. These standards include periodic inspections, notifications and investigations of deaths in custody, annual reports to Congress, an online detainee location system, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) locator and an online public facilities matrix. The online public facilities matrix goes on to include the name and address of the detention center, whether the facility houses adults, children or both, the average number of detainees and whether or not the facility is in compliance with the regulated standards set by Congress.

These five facts about the conditions of immigrant detention camps are the main talking points circulating around the political scene. Other horrendous conditions of detention camps include cold temperatures, lights being on at all times, lack of proper food rations or having expired foods and mental trauma caused by the terrible conditions. The conditions in which immigrants are living in detention camps need to be bettered with stricter regulations that must be enforced by the government. Recent public knowledge of the conditions of immigrant detention camps will help to force the government to provide aid for current detainees.

Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr

How "Extreme" is the U.S. Refugee Screening Process?
As global concern about terrorism has grown in the past several years, so has demand for strict security measures regarding the resettlement of refugees. The U.S. refugee screening process was a common theme in the 2016 presidential debates. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spoke on the issue, and some constituents called for “extreme vetting” of refugees coming into the U.S. What many people don’t know is how extensive the existing process is.

The resettlement process begins with applicants identifying themselves to the U.N. Refugee Agency, the UNHCR. Applicants present the UNHCR with all identifying documents and, after an interview, the organization determines whether or not they qualify as refugees. Only applicants who are strong candidates for refugee status move forward in the process. This number equates to less than 1 percent of refugees worldwide.

The average time an applicant spends waiting to be resettled after being approved as a refugee by the UNHCR is anywhere between 18 months and two years. During this time, the applicant’s case is carefully reviewed and screened by a number of different resources.

After receiving official refugee status from the UNHCR, the applicant is referred for resettlement to the U.S. by the U.N., a national embassy or an NGO. The applicant goes through a series of security checks run by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In the U.S., these bodies include the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The screenings look for any indication that the applicant could pose a threat to domestic security, such as connections to known terrorists or past criminal history. The screening process is repeated if new information comes to light during any point of the resettlement process.

Next, the applicant goes through an in-person interview with a U.S. Homeland Security officer who has been specially trained to interview refugees. Fingerprints are taken at the time of the interview and scanned against the DHS biometric database, which contains watch-list information and details regarding any previous immigration accounts overseas. The applicant then goes through a medical screening and may be treated for communicable diseases if necessary.

Applicants also go through intensive cultural classes and are matched with U.S. partner agencies that will assist them when they arrive at their new homes. Prior to departure, applicants undergo one more security screening to check for any new information. Upon arrival in their new cities, months’ worth of cultural orientation helps them adjust properly to living in the U.S.

Overall, the existing U.S. refugee screening process is methodical and rigorous.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Obama Administration to Combat Human Trafficking
Established in March 2012, the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) actively works to alleviate impacts and rates of human trafficking on both domestic and international levels. Initiatives to increase adherence to the rule of law, victim service provisions, analysis of supply and procurement chains and public awareness are central to the mission of the task force.

The task force aims to put an end to human trafficking through coordinated efforts among leaders across the board in dimensions such as academics, religious communities, the private sector and survivors of modern slavery.

In his last address to the PITF during Obama’s administration, Secretary Kerry emphasized the depth of destruction caused by human trafficking’s impact on “every single thing we are trying to accomplish in the field of development.” Kerry also condemned the “multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise” that is human trafficking, while emphasizing the necessity of mobilizing resources to combat illicit activity.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resumes responsibility for another anti-human trafficking initiative called the Blue Campaign created during the Obama administration. It acts as a conduit for collaboration between law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations to enhance public awareness and unify investigative efforts.

Created in 2012, the public-private partnership called the Partnership for Freedom is another program developed during the Obama administration. This initiative offers financial support for innovative victim services as well as grants for tech communities to hinder illicit activity.

When the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking was created in 2015, its establishment emboldened invaluable expertise that human trafficking survivors had attained through their experiences. Composed of 11 survivors, these individuals lend policy advice to the PITF, integrating diversity and personal expertise to the future of anti-human trafficking efforts.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr