AILA Public Statements

AILA Denounces House Hearing; Immigration Detention is No "Holiday"

3/28/12 AILA Doc. No. 12032860. Detention & Bond, Removal & Relief
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
George Tzamaras / Amanda Walkins
202-507-7649 / 202-507-7618 /

WASHINGTON, DC - Today the House Subcommittee on Immigration will hold a hearing entitled "Holiday on ICE," attempting to depict the government's detention of hundreds of thousands of people in jail-like conditions as a vacation. AILA is deeply troubled by the premise of this hearing, which disregards the dark history of America's immigration detention system that is marked by poor treatment, neglect, and abuse.

"Immigrants have died while in detention because of neglect and lack of medical care. The name of this hearing, in and of itself, is highly offensive and betrays both a clear lack of regard for the humanity of immigrant detainees, as well as a sense of contempt for basic human rights. To compare being kept in jail to a holiday is preposterous. There is something deeply wrong when a title like this is officially bestowed upon a congressional proceeding," AILA President Eleanor Pelta commented.

There can be no doubt that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) needs scrupulously enforced detention standards. Over the past several years, there have been countless news reports, investigative studies and congressional hearings-including one in the Immigration Subcommittee-exposing severe deficiencies in the system. More recent stories, such as an October 2011 Frontline exposé, have revealed chilling cases of sexual assaults and abuse perpetrated by local guards and ICE agents.

"It is imperative that ICE roll out the new standards as quickly as possible in every facility where immigration detainees are held. These standards must be fully implemented and rigorously monitored," said Pelta, referring to the new standards ICE issued last month called the Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) 2011.

"But this is just the first step toward ensuring that the treatment of immigrants in detention is safe and humane," continued Pelta. "It is not enough to have internal guidelines that can be changed with limited oversight. Standards must be codified and made enforceable." AILA supports enactment of H.R. 933, the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act [Roybal-Allard (D-CA)] which establishes minimum detention standards.

In addition, AILA urges President Obama to ensure that protections of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) cover those held in immigration detention facilities. Enacted in 2003, PREA protects all individuals in local, state, or federal custody from rape and sexual assault.

"Immigrants are one of the most vulnerable populations in detention. It makes no sense to exclude them from such vital protections. Congress passed PREA in 2003. We can't wait any longer for the protections Congress envisioned to take effect," Pelta concluded.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.