Top Lawmakers To Question Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff on Detained Immigrants’ Medical Care
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) announced that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other lawmakers will question Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Julie Myers, assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in a Thursday meeting responding to reports that medical negligence caused the deaths of detained immigrants seeking asylum or awaiting deportation, the Washington Post reports. The meeting is in response to a four-part Post series on medical care for detained immigrants, titled "Careless Detention," and other media coverage on the issue.
House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) have requested documents from Homeland Security on the issue and plan to hold a hearing after the Memorial Day recess. In addition, Conyers, Lofgren and Menendez introduced legislation (HR 5950) that would establish mandatory standards for medical care for immigrants in detention centers.
Myers Article Defends ICE
Myers, in a published article, defended ICE's treatment of detained immigrants and called any deaths "regrettable," adding that any media reports were exaggerated. She wrote that ICE doubled spending, to $100 million, on health care for detainees from 2003 to 2007. In addition, Myers wrote that although the number of detainees increased more than 30% since 2004, the number of deaths fell from 29 in 2004 to seven in 2007. The mortality rate decreased to 3.5 deaths per 100,000 detainees from 10.8 deaths per 100,000 detainees during the same time period, the article said.
Conyers said, "The Department of Homeland Security's denial and delay is leading to death and disability," adding, "It is time for answers, not excuses." During a news conference with family members of immigrants who died in U.S. detention centers, immigrant advocacy groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, Menendez said, "We intend to press them on these issues. We cannot accept the nature of what is going on" (Hsu, Washington Post, 5/22).