Editorials Address Immigrant Detainee Health Care Issues
Summaries appear below of an editorial and an opinion piece addressing reports that examined inadequate health care for immigrants detained at U.S. immigration detention centers. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) this month introduced a bill (HR 5950) to establish mandatory standards for medical care at the detention centers.
Los Angeles Times: The "callousness" in the treatment of detainees "reflects a neglect that is shockingly permissible against immigrants nationwide," a Times editorial states. According to the editorial, the 300 immigrant detention centers in the U.S. "have voluntary health care standards, not mandatory ones." As a result, "immigrants who are detained at the centers ... often are subjected to indifference, even cruelty," the editorial states. The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which oversees the facilities, "maintains that few people actually die in detention centers, and that may be true, but it doesn't account for people" who "die after leaving custody," according to the editorial. The editorial states, "Mandating humanity shouldn't be necessary," and DHS "could do this on its own, but it won't, so [Lofgren's] bill is needed," adding, "Our treatment of immigrants, illegal or otherwise, shouldn't include watching them die" (Los Angeles Times, 5/20).
- Julie Myers, Washington Post: Recent reports and the Post series "have presented a misleading view of the medical care provided to detainees at [ICE] facilities," and "[r]eaders deserve to hear from both sides," Myers, assistant secretary for homeland security at ICE, writes in a Post opinion piece. Myers writes that ICE "was formed in March 2003 with a broad mission that includes immigration and customs enforcement and management of the detention and removal processes for apprehended aliens." The agency "did not create the detention or detainee health care systems" but "inherited the procedures of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Division of Immigration Health Services," according to Myers. She continues, "Over the past 2 1/2 years, ICE has examined these decades-old practices and is making substantial improvements," adding that while "the number of people in ICE custody has risen, demand for health care and medical services has also grown significantly." Myers writes that "many reports neglected to mention ICE's efforts to improve care at detention facilities" and some of them "focused on stories that predate these efforts." She states, "Readers should know that ICE does not tolerate malfeasance or malpractice," adding, "Instances of improper behavior will be immediately and vigorously investigated; if necessary, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken" (Myers, Washington Post, 5/20).