The changes, detailed in an internal ICE e-mail obtained by the Houston Chronicle, were welcomed by immigrant advocates who have been waiting for the Obama administration to deliver on a promise made in August to overhaul the nation's immigration detention system.
The 28 changes identified in the e-mail range from the superficial to the substantive. In addition to “softening the look of the facility” with hanging plants and offering fresh carrot sticks, ICE will allow for the “free movement” of low-risk detainees, expand visiting hours and provide unmonitored phone lines.
ICE officials said the changes are part of broader efforts to make the immigration detention system less penal and more humane.
But the plans are prompting protests by ICE's union leaders, who say they will jeopardize the safety of agents, guards and detainees and increase the bottom line for taxpayers. Tre Rebstock, president for Local 3332, the ICE union in Houston, likened the changes to creating “an all-inclusive resort” for immigration detainees.
“Our biggest concern is that someone is going to get hurt,” he said, taking particular issue with plans to relax restrictions on the movement of low-risk detainees and efforts to reduce and eliminate pat-down searches.
To demonstrate the scale of the problem, ICE houses nearly half a million illegal immigrants annually. Many are convicted criminals (recidivists included) including rapists, drug dealers and murderers.
The unions that represent prison guards are rightfully worried. Reducing pat-down searches will allow weapons, drugs and other contraband into detention centers.
The ICE memo reads as follows:
From: Conry, Steven
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2010 2:38 PM
Subject: Immeidate Attention - New ICE Requirements
Below, please find a list of facility modifications which we will discuss at our
upcoming meeting at 2:45 pm.
In addition [to the policy reforms], CCA will provide the following no-cost
improvements at each of those nine facilities. [Elizabeth; Eloy; Florence;
Houston; Laredo; Hall County; San Diego; Stewart; Hutto]
· Allow visitors to come for as long as they like during a 12-hour period each day and on weekends.
· Increase availability of legal supplies and postage to indigent detainees for legal correspondence.
· Add research resources at the law libraries.
· Play the “Know Your Rights” legal orientation video in each housing unit every day (not in lieu of in person legal programs but in addition to them).
· Increase contact visitation space for legal counsel.
· Design and provide an area at each facility for contact visitation.
· Allow free movement within the institution for detainees of appropriate classification levels.
· Allow detainees of appropriate classification levels to wear their own clothing, within reasonable limitation, and providing non-penal clothing for detainees to wear.
· Eliminate lock downs and lights out for appropriate classification levels
· Reduce the frequency of and, as reasonable, wholly eliminate pat down searches
· Provide more normalized common areas.
· Soften the look for the facility with hanging plants, flower baskets, new paint colors, different bedding and furniture, wall graphics and framed pictures on the walls, and enhance the aesthetics of the living areas.
· Expand programming for detainees to include movie nights, bingo, arts and crafts, dance, walk and exercise classes, health and welfare classes, basic cooking classes, tutoring and self-paced computer training on portable computer stations.
· Provide celebrations of special occasions and allowing a detainee to receive outside, packaged food for celebrations and while visiting with family and friends.
· Increase the number of phones and unmonitored lines for attorney calls.
· Design new menus with greater variety and reduce repetition of food
· Offer continental breakfasts that are completely self serve on holidays
· Provide fresh carrot sticks and celery or other vegetables in a bar format.
· Provide self-serve beverage bars.
· Offer water and tea in the housing areas at all times.
· Provide a unit manger so detainees have someone available to talk to and to solve problems in the facility other than the immediate guard.
· Increase training unique to each facility so staff are aware of the nature and needs of the population of each facility.
· Survey community-based immigration advocacy groups and immigration attorneys for suggestions that may improve communication and ease of access.
· Designate an employee at each facility for consular access issues to improve consular access.
· Ensure third party legal education programs are made available at all ICE sites.
· Provide four hours or more hours of recreation in a natural setting, allowing for robust aerobic exercise.
· Provide email access for detainees, as is currently provided at Hutto.
· Provide internet-based free phone service.
The Obama administration claims that there's not enough money for key defense programs. Minor things like, oh, I don't know -- freaking missile defense!
But there's apparently plenty of money to keep illegal immigrants in clover. Yes, these Democrats are really fine at this governin' business.
Hat tip: Charlie Foxtrot.