Annual Meeting

ABA House OKs Standards Saying Civilly Detained Immigrants Should Not Be Held in Jail-Like Settings

Most illegal aliens detained by the Department of Homeland Security should not be held in jails or jail-like settings, according to new civil immigration detention standards adopted Monday by the ABA House of Delegates.

The standards are designed to help DHS as it transitions to a system that does not primarily rely on jail-like facilities, according to an introduction to the standards in Resolution 102. “Civil detention facilities might be closely analogized to ‘secure’ nursing homes, residential treatment facilities, domestic violence shelters, or in-patient psychiatric treatment facilities,” the document says. More restrictive measures would be needed, however, for residents that pose a danger to themselves or others, the introduction says.

The Department of Homeland Security must detain broad categories of noncitizens pending their removal, and has the authority to detain others. Most detainees are held in jails or jail-like settings, even though a substantial percentage do not have criminal records, the introduction says.

The standards also recognize that access to legal services is critical. “Facilities should allow for residents to seek and receive legal advice and medical and psycho-social care; conduct legal research and otherwise participate in the preparation of their cases; wash and wear their own clothes; and practice their faith(s),” the introduction says.

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