In October, the Department of Homeland Security announced reforms aimed at improving conditions for immigrants being held in detention centers.
On any given day, more than 32,000 immigrants—including children and refugees seeking asylum from political violence—are detained in facilities that resemble prisons.
For years, advocacy groups have conducted investigations, engaged in legal battles, and staged national vigils and protests to publicize human rights violations in detention centers.
In 2008, for example, a report by OneAmerica found that detainees at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Tacoma, Washington, suffered from overcrowding, food poisoning, inadequate food, and poor medical care.
In August, the American Civil Liberties Union settled a series of lawsuits to obtain medical care and educational programming for 26 immigrant children held at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.
The Homeland Security reforms will place nonviolent detainees in converted hotels and nursing homes instead of jails and detention centers, increase facility oversight, and provide better medical training for detention facility workers.
Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, says the reforms are encouraging, but “meaningful reform of the system must also focus on … why they are being detained in the first place.”
—Susie Shutts is online editorial intern at YES! Magazine
“You have young activists and gay people from all walks of life converging on Washington, not because a national organization told them to, but because they feel the time is now.”
Corey Johnson, activist and blogger for towleroad.com, about the October 11th 2009 National Equality March in Washington, D.C., the largest demonstration for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered rights in over a decade. The march was organized from the grassroots in less than four months.
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