10/07/2009 12:16 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

ICE Promises Detention Reforms, CCA Announces New Detention Center

On the same day that Corrections Corporation of America opened a new 500-bed immigrant detention center, Homeland Security officials released a highly anticipated review of detention centers. Accompanied by recommendations and next steps, the review promises better federal oversight and health care in the largely outsourced network of prisons and jails that house a daily average of 32,000 people with pending immigration and refugee status requests.

"The government has recognized that it has a massive system with serious problems, and has identified steps to ameliorate the situation," said Linton Joaquin, the National Immigration Law Center's general counsel, one of several advocacy organizations to respond to the report with mixed reviews. "However, the steps they propose taking in the short and intermediate term are limited compared to the size of the problem.

Other advocates appreciated the review's distinction that that "the majority of the population is characterized as low custody, or having a low propensity for violence," and yet are housed in prison-like conditions. One of the review's recommendations is to expand Alternatives to Detention programs so that nonviolent detainees can be housed in residential facilities or monitored with electronic ankle bracelets. Some reports indicate detainees could be housed in converted hotels - which would be a return to ICE"s roots in the 1980s.

The reviewers note that the Detention and Removal department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has "limited in-house expertise on this subject matter" and that "the establishment of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning is a critical first step," which suggests the expansion of alternatives take a while.

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