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Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson: Follow Panel’s Recommendation to Close Immigration Detention Centers


Shayna Lewis, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, slewis@uusc.org, 617-301-4333
Amy Fischer, RAICES, amy.fischer@raicestexas.org, 202-459-1977
Erika Almirón, Juntos, erika@vamosjuntos.org, 215-218-9079
Cristina Parker, Grassroots Leadership, cparker@grassrootsleadership.org, 915-497-2747 

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson: Follow Panel’s Recommendation to Close Immigration Detention Centers 

Reject ICE Director Saldaña’s attempt to bury the report she commissioned because she didn’t like its Conclusion

Close the family residential centers where asylum seekers from Central America and others are being detained is the recommendation of the advisory committee charged by Sarah Saldaña, director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security. At an October 7th public meeting in Washington, DC, the Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (ACFRC)* voted unanimously to adopt its 166 page report with strengthened language to emphasize the need to end family detention. Saldaña’s response was to scold the committee for going beyond its mandate by recommending the closure of the detention facilities. She told the committee that she did not read the full report, and would “put it in a binder” for the next administration.  

A broad coalition of faith and secular organizations now call on Secretary Jeh Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement the recommendations of DHS’s Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers (ACFRC) and immediately end family detention for immigrant and refugee families with children. 

The ACFRC’s final report is being released on Friday, October 14, 2016.

We are appalled by the dismissive response of Immigration and Custom Enforcement Director, Sarah Saldaña, We will not allow DHS’s own advisory committee to have their findings buried just because the results are not what Director Saldaña wanted to hear. The findings and recommendations of the ACFRC are consistent with our own experiences as advocates supporting families inside of detention facilities, like those in Texas and Pennsylvania, since the Obama Administration reestablished the wide-scale use of family immigration detention in 2014. Their report also provides concrete data that, although DHS prides itself on a “20 day average” for families in detention, on a one-day snapshot (May 16, 2016) 12% of families held at that time had already been detained over 20 days, violating the Government’s own flawed interpretation of the Flores ruling which requires that children be detained for as short a duration as possible.” 

*The Advisory Committee, established by DHS in July 2015 and comprised of education, health, and immigration experts, was tasked with recommending best practices for implementing family detention. After thorough research, visits to all three existing Family Residential Centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, and much deliberation, the ACFRC announced in their final public meeting on October 7 2016 that their primary recommendation is to end family detention altogether, and that profound, fundamental changes must be made to family detention if it is to continue at all. They assert that the current conditions in detention are not sufficient for ensuring the basic rights and well-being of children and families.

For reference, the draft report is available at https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report/2016/ACFRC-sc-16093.pdf

This statement is signed by:

  • American Gateways
  • Detention Watch Network
  • Florida Coastal School of Law Immigrant and Human Rights Clinic
  • Grassroots Leadership
  • Hope in Focus
  • Juntos
  • Justice Strategies
  • Make the Road Pennsylvania
  • Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  • Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
  • Mission Presbytery Immigration Task Force
  • National Immigrant Justice Center
  • National Justice for Our Neighbors
  • National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  • NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
  • Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)
  • Reformed Church of Highland Park
  • Refugee and Immigration Ministries – Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • South Texas Human Rights Center
  • Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry
  • Unitarian Universalist Association
  • Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice
  • Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network
  • Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  • Workers Defense Project