The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General announced Tuesday that the agency will conduct surprise inspections at immigration detention centers.
The American Civil Liberties Union, immigration attorneys and activists have warned about poor conditions at the detention centers for years — from the initial holding areas at front-line Border Patrol stations to immigration jails operated by the federal government and for-profit contractors.
Attorney Rick Ramirez said he frequently hears concerns from migrants.
“They say ‘Yeah, I’m stuck in a room with like 20 or 30 people for two days with minimum food and no change of clothes,” Ramirez said. “And no showering.”
The majority of people detained for illegally crossing the border aren’t charged with a criminal offense.
“The OIG is initiating this inspection program in response to concerns raised by immigrant rights groups and complaints to the DHS OIG Hotline regarding conditions for aliens in CBP and ICE custody,” according to the announcement. “The unannounced spot inspections are designed to monitor DHS compliance with official government health, safety, and detention standards, and to examine conditions for minors at those facilities where minors are present.”
John Michael Torres, an organizer with La Union Del Pueblo Entero, said some migrants have died after they weren’t provided adequate medical attention.
“We need to elevate those standards,” Torres said. “We need to reduce the amount of detention that is used against human beings because we’re all in this country, we’re all looking for something better for our families for ourselves, for our futures — and immigrants are no different.”
The surprise visits started Tuesday.
Results will be provided to Department of Homeland Security administrators, Congress and the public.