ICE Agrees To Improve Health Care Provided To Immigration Detainees As Part Of Settlement Of ACLU Lawsuit

Careless Detention An investigative series by Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein that details the poor medical care provided to immigration detainees being held in scores of facilities across the United States.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have agreed to provide immigration detainees with constitutionally adequate levels of medical and mental health care as part of an agreement to settle an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit charging that deficient care at the San Diego Correctional Facility (SDCF) caused unnecessary suffering and death. As part of the settlement, ICE has also agreed to change its policy on medical care that had led to the denial of what ICE deemed to be “non-emergency” care, including heart surgeries and cancer biopsies.

Among the settlement agreement’s provisions are requirements that detainees at SDCF receive health care that meets or exceeds National Commission on Correctional Health Care standards and that an additional full-time psychiatrist and four full-time psychiatric nurses be hired to ensure that detainees receive adequate mental health care. The settlement also requires immigration officials to remove from existing policies all statements suggesting that detainees will receive only emergency medical services and to include in the same policies explicit statements mandating that detainees shall be provided medical care whenever it is necessary to address a serious medical need.

Originally filed in June 2007 by the ACLU, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties and the law firm Cooley LLP, the complaint stated that detainees at SDCF were routinely subjected to long delays before treatment, denied necessary medication for chronic illnesses and refused essential referrals prescribed by medical staff.

The lawsuit specifically cited the cases of 11 detainees, including several whose bipolar disorders and depression went untreated, a man who was forced to wait more than eight months for eye surgery and nearly suffered permanent disfigurement and detainees who never received medical attention despite suffering from a variety of maladies including Type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, abscessed and broken teeth and severe chest pains.

The lawsuit charged that the refusal of immigration officials to provide appropriate medical care punished immigration detainees in violation of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering on federal detainees. Because SDCF holds civil immigrant detainees not serving a criminal sentence, the Fifth Amendment applies to protect their civil rights.

A copy of the settlement agreement is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/woods-v-morton-settlement-agreement

Undocumented or Illegal?

From ImmigrationProf Blog:

Four years ago, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists launched a campaign to change the terms that news organizations use to refer to people who enter the country illegally. Rather than referring to them as “illegal immigrants,” as the Associated Press Stylebook recommends, or the more loaded “illegal alien,” NAHJ proposed using the term “undocumented immigrant.”  “It is much easier to dehumanize and to silence somebody when you’re calling them an illegal,” says Ivan Roman, executive director of NAHJ. “When you don’t give credibility to people, and you don’t give respect to people, it is really easy for politicians to not take them into account when they are establishing policy.”

The American Journalism Review reports that a recent analysis of the frequency with which “illegal immigrant” turns up in U.S. newspapers and wire services reveals that usage has declined since 2006?but the term still shows up fairly frequently, as it has for decades.”

Statement on Senate’s DREAM Act Failure

From Mark Silverman of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:

Statement on the Senate’s Failure to Pass the DREAM Act by Mark Silverman, Director of Immigration Policy, Immigrant Legal Resource Center

The vote for the DREAM Act failed   in the Senate to advance the DREAM failed today, December 18th.  A majority of the senators voted for the DREAM Act today.  But the vote of 55-41 in favor of the DREAM Act was five votes short of the 60 required because of the Senates outdated rules which make it possible for a minority of senators to defeat a bill, as happened today.

Thousands of hard-working young immigrants lost today because for the time being they have been denied the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and contribute to our society.

The American people lost today because we will be deprived of the contributions to our economy and society of thousands of educated young people

A number of U.S. Senators also lost today because immigrant, Latino, Asian and many other voters will remember in the future that these Senators voted against the best of our American values by voting against the DREAM Act.

We have hope for the future because we are inspired by the DREAM Act students who led the campaign for this common sense and just legislation.  This campaign to win the DREAM Act has been historic.  It is the first time in American history that the immigrants have led a campaign to bring about a major change in our immigration law.   Tens of thousands of Americans actively supported these young people in this campaign.

The hopes, talents, and dreams of these young immigrants are as strong as ever. They only want the chance to work to make their dreams come true and to contribute to the welfare of all Americans.  We are confident that working together all of us will make this possible in the future.

For more coverage on this story, click here.

DREAM Act in danger after Senate Dems pull it from consideration

Senate Democrats conceded Thursday on the DREAM Act, an immigration measure that would help undocumented young people gain a chance at earning legal status by joining the military or entering college.

Recognizing they could not win the 60 votes to break a Republican-led filibuster on their own version of the bill, Senate Democrats will now put the House version up for a vote next week.

Democrats voted to pull the measure from consideration, a move that jeopardizes the chances for passing the hotly contested bill during the current lame-duck session of Congress that ends in early January.

While supporters say the measure that passed the House on Wednesday could still come up, each passing day reduces the likelihood for introducing and debating the act as legislative leaders battle over priorities in the waning days of the session.

The so-called Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would have affected immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children under the age of 16 and have lived in the country for at least five years. Other requirements include graduating from high-school or obtaining a General Education Development diploma and demonstrating “good moral character.”

Even then, only a six-year conditional status would be awarded. Before moving to the next phase, the students would need to meet additional requirements — attending college or serving in the military for at least two years, and passing criminal background checks.

Proponents, including President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders, say the bill offers legal standing to young people brought to the United States who have bettered themselves and served their new country, while opponents claim it is a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

A White House statement Thursday praised Senate Democratic leaders for pulling the bill so that the chamber can take up the version passed by the House.

Noting that eight House Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the measure, the statement by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the proposal “should get bipartisan support in the Senate as well, and in light of the vote in the House, this is the right way to move forward to get that.”

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, a major supporter of the DREAM Act, said Thursday that “we now have the weekend and into next week to launch a national mobilization to get the votes to enact this important bill.”

The DREAM Act has floated through Congress for years, but its chances for passage aren’t likely to improve in the next Congress. Once Republicans take over the House next year and strengthen their ranks in the Senate, there is little chance for any kind of immigration reform.

Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin released a statement saying they will ensure the DREAM Act becomes law by the end of the year.

“The DREAM Act is not a symbolic vote,” they said. “We owe it to the young men and women whose lives will be affected by this bill, and to the country which needs their service in the military and their skills in building our economy, to honestly address this issue.”

House sends DREAM Act to Senate

The DREAM Act would provide ' green cards' to some illegal immigrants. | AP Photo

According to a recent Politco article by Scott Wong, the DREAM Act cleared the House on Wednesday night, but now faces a daunting test in the Senate. After a two-hour floor debate, the House passed the DREAM Act along mostly partisan lines, 216 to 198, with 38 Democrats voting against the bill and 8 Republicans supporting it. Democrats framed the legislation as a civil-rights issue. Republicans denounced it as a “nightmare” amnesty plan that would encourage illegal immigration.

“The DREAM Act itself symbolizes what it means to be an American,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “It’s about equality. It’s about opportunity. It’s about the future.”

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a procedural vote for Thursday morning.

But in the waning days of the lame-duck session, Senate Republicans have vowed to filibuster any legislation unrelated to the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and the funding of the government. Even proponents conceded they haven’t secured the 60 votes needed to move the bill forward in the Senate.
However, House Democrats hope that passing the bill in their chamber first will provide some momentum for Senate passage. In discussions Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) personally urged Reid to postpone the Senate vote until Thursday, said a senior Democratic aide.

“If the bill had gone down in the Senate first, it would have been very hard to get it across the finish line in the House,” the aide said.

Stalled in Congress for the past decade, the DREAM Act would provide “green cards” – and eventually the opportunity for citizenship — to some illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children — if they attend college or join the military for two years.

To be eligible, beneficiaries must have come to the U.S. before the age of 16; be under the age of 30; lived in the country for five years; pass a criminal background test; and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

Critics aired a host of complaints about the bill, saying it rewards lawbreakers and allows those who commit some misdemeanor crimes to be eligible. “The DREAM Act corrects one of the most-egregious flaws of a badly broken immigration system,” Obama said. “A flaw that forces children who have grown up in America, who speak English, who have excelled in our communities as academics, athletes, or volunteers to put their lives and talent on hold at a great cost to themselves and our nation.” For more on the House passing the DREAM Act, click here.

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