10 February 2012

American immigration authorities to open 'model' detention centre

A new American immigration detention centre to be opened in Texas will be the first facility designed and built upon the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) 2009 commitment to improve the immigration system.

US visa

The new detention centre is intended to move away from the jail like facilities asylum seekers are currently held in.

Illegal immigrants arriving in the country without a valid American visa have typically been held in county jails or other jail like facilities. However, it is hoped that this new centre in Karnes County, Texas will serve as a testament to ICE's commitment to move away from such overly punitive measures.

A team of representatives from a number of charities and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will tour the new facility on its opening day to see whether the new conditions meet with the expected criteria.

A report by NGO Human Rights First in 2011 entitled 'Jails and Jumpsuits: Transforming the US Immigration Detention System' recommended several changes and the delegate from Human Rights First is hoping to see these implemented on the tour.

"ICE has promised conditions in the new Kansas facility that are more in line with the best practices in the corrections context," said Ruthie Epstein, the delegate from Human Rights First.

"Based on ICE's reform commitment, I expect the facility to include more 'normalised' conditions such as privacy in toilets and showers and expanded access to outdoor recreation.

"These are basic dignities. We also hope to see a plan from ICE to allow detainees to move freely within the facility and to wear their own clothing."

The American government's commitment to reform came after years of calls for change; most complaints centred on the insistence of keeping asylum seekers in prison like facilities. Both the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and the Council on Foreign Relations reported that jail-like facilities were inappropriate and overly costly for asylum seekers.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people with their ESTA visa application.

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