Obama Administration under Fire

November 23, 2015 7:20 am
by David Jakeman

For many observers, the Republican Party is often seen as the enemy of the immigrant community. Harsh language for immigrants by leading presidential candidates like Donald Trump has done little to dispel this impression. The vocal Republicans have often distracted from the delayed actions—or in some cases, inaction—of Democrats. It is true that President Obama received some pressure from immigration activists before the most recent midterm election, but the Republicans have all too willingly stepped in to take the heat.

That’s what makes a recent report by a couple of immigrant rights’ organizations such big news. The report argues that the federal government has failed to investigate allegations of abuse in immigrant detention centers. The National Immigrant Justice Center and Detention Watch Network teamed up to obtain documents from the federal government. The two groups collaborated to obtain the documents through the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act. After three years of significant work and litigation, they finally got the documents they were looking for. And the report doesn’t make the Obama administration look good.

Report on Detention Centers
The report calls out the Obama administration, alleging that it has “done little to improve oversight or gain control over the sprawling immigration detention system and the conditions approximately 34,000 immigrants face in custody every night.”1

That is not to say the Obama administration didn’t try at some level to solve these issues, having tried in 2009 to change how allegations of abuse were reported, but the reforms didn’t solve the issue in part because ICE is in charge of monitoring its own compliance.

Tacoma Immigration Detention Center
Members of Congress, like Representative Adam Smith, whose home district includes the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, note that there is an obvious conflict of interest. For this reason, it appears that allegations of mistreatment have been explained away through bureaucratic relabeling and obfuscation. Smith has led the effort to create an independent panel that would investigate accusations of misconduct. If we were to adopt the logic that people use to defend the NSA’s logic in this case, if ICE has nothing to hide, why would it be afraid of allowing an outside investigator?

The report also says that even high profile accusations of abuse that made their way into the media were not investigated correctly. Such reports make it difficult for those whose family members are locked up. Having a family member in detention is already very worrisome, which is something Tacoma immigration attorneys understand, and such reports only further feelings of unease.
ICE should really open up their doors to outside investigators. It will help their efforts to provide transparent service and will protect immigrants seeking to survive in difficult circumstances. Ultimately, the Obama administration should make good on its efforts to protect immigrants and make sure that ICE officials are responsive to outside professional scrutiny. A little light can be the best antiseptic.

1 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ice-detention-centers-report_5627ef33e4b08589ef4a93d1

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