Trump Sparks Immigration Detention “Race to the Bottom”


Needing more jail space to carry out sweeping deportation actions, the Trump administration may gut safe detainment regulations to entice local prisons to offer up their cells for the effort.

The new contracts with jailers would roll back many of the protections afforded to detained immigrants under the Obama administration, including medical care upon request within 24 hours and translation services.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rules that required suicidal detainees to be checked on every 15 minutes, and notification when individuals spend more than two weeks in solitary confinement are also being scaled back.

According to the New York Times, the new jailing contracts “will contain a far less detailed set of regulations.”

In addition, the Office of Detention Policy and Planning (ODPP), which was created to “meet the unique needs of ICE’s detained population,” would be shuttered.

As the Times noted, the policy changes marks a “break from a long-held philosophy” that undocumented immigrants should be treated more compassionately than convicted criminals serving jail sentences under DOJ regulations.

Officials told the paper that ICE had signed off on the new detention contracts, but that the agency was awaiting final approval by the Department of Homeland Security.

Reaching out to local jailers is just one prong in the Trump administration’s plan to drastically ramp up enforcement activities.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday on an internal DHS assessment revealing the department has already secured 33,000 more detention beds. It was also looking into rapidly beefing up its force of Customs and Border Protection officers by possibly scrapping polygraphs and physical fitness tests conducted in the hiring process.

DHS was reportedly in contact with “dozens” of local law enforcement to assist in anti-immigration actions.

Relaxing detention regulations could cost many immigrants their life, according to critics and historical data.

“A decision to simultaneously abandon detention standards could have disastrous consequences for the health and safety of these individuals,” Kevin Landy, who previously headed up the ODPP, told the Times.

In 2015, the National Institutes of Health tracked the number of immigrants who died annually in detention centers, and discovered a drastic decline over the last decade. Only six people died in custody in 2014, compared to 32 ten years earlier.

During that time, the total detention population increased by more than half. The study determined that less reliance on local jails, and ODPP regulations were factors in the reducing numbers of deaths.

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