WASHINGTON -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that immigration officials will go back and look at their policies after The New York Times reported that some immigrants in civil detention facilities are being held in solitary confinement, many for two weeks or more.
"I was not wild about the story," she said at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "But I think solitary confinement should be the exception, not the rule. ... So I've asked ICE to go back and give me information on the specific cases that were referenced, when those occurred, [whether] the 'facts' -- 'facts,' I say that in quotes -- that were reported were accurate, and then looking at all of our policies with respect to solitary."
The Times published a story on Saturday based on Immigration and Customs data that showed the agency holds about 300 people in solitary confinement at any given time, with about 150 of them being held for 15 days. About 75 people were held for 35 days or more, The Times reported.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is holding more than 30,000 people in detention, with enough funding from Congress for about 34,000. Because being in the country without authorization is a civil, not a criminal offense, such facilities are not supposed to be punitive -- although they have been criticized as too prison-like.
Napolitano said immigrants are held in detention for "a variety of reasons," including their own safety or if they are "disruptive" to other inmates.
"But it is not something we should be doing on a regular basis," she said.