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house Bill H.R. 2842

Should Members of Congress Be Able to Enter Immigrant Detention Centers With 48 Hours Notice?

Argument in favor

Congressional oversight of immigrant detention centers is needed to ensure that they take adequate care of the detainees in their custody. This is especially important given the allegations of poor conditions and inhumane treatment of detainees at these facilities, and that many detainees are in poor health after an arduous journey across the border.

Phyllis's Opinion
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06/23/2019
They should be able to enter without notice! They should be able to document conditions with pen & paper, photos, & videos. They should be granted access to every single area, to ask questions of any person, and to have access to any documentation they request. They are our representatives. It is their job to ensure our tax dollars are not being used inappropriately. It is their job to be informed. Not allowing Congress access to the biggest crisis we have, screams of cover up. From the information we already have, we know there are problems. We know children are sick, dying, being taken away from their parents, and becoming lost! There is something wrong. There is something immoral. There is something evil happening. I’m tired of my tax dollars being spent to treat other humans in this way. Congress needs access to investigate & begin working to resolve this crisis. To end mass immigration from countries, you need to WORK ON ROOT CAUSES! Not torture families fleeing violence.
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Henry's Opinion
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06/23/2019
Yes but why a 48 hour wait? Any inspection should be at any time. The only reason for a wait time is if someone has something to hide.
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Mancos's Opinion
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06/23/2019
Detention facilities should be held to the same standard of “notice” as ICE agents are when they conduct surprise raids. This issue must be addressed in a bi-partisan way through legislation. What is the hold up McConnell? Fear of the orange idiot in the WH?
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Argument opposed

There are already multiple existing oversight processes for immigrant detention centers through ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight; a private company, Nakamoto Group; and the general public, through a process called “stakeholder procedures.” Plus, 2018 legislation already gave members of Congress the ability to drop in to visit detention centers for children, who are the most vulnerable population in detention facilities.

Jeff's Opinion
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06/23/2019
No. Access should be granted instantly at any time. What is being hidden in these camps?
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Cynthia's Opinion
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06/23/2019
Members of Congress should be able to access these concentration camps at all times. It’s time for the citizens of this country to know what is being done in our name.
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John's Opinion
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06/23/2019
Members of Congress should be allowed to get into any facility like this when they want to instantly. They should be allowed anywhere except secured military bases wherever they want. I’m more surprised that they can’t go where they want to.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Immigration and Citizenship
    IntroducedMay 20th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 2842?

This bill — the Public Oversight of Detention Centers (POD) Act — would allow members of Congress to gain access to immigrant detention facilities within 48 hours of their request. This requirement would apply to both juvenile and adult facilities. 

Impact

Immigrant detention center detainees; immigrant detention centers; Members of Congress; and Congressional oversight of immigrant detention centers.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2842

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Jason Crow (D-CO) introduced this bill in response to multiple instances of ICE and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) blocking members of Congress from entering detention facilities to conduct oversight. This bill would require Congressional access to ICE detention facilities:

"When my office learned of poor conditions and health issues at an ICE detention center in Aurora, we immediately sought access to the facility to conduct oversight. We were denied access not once but three times. Since then, we learned of infectious disease outbreaks and conditions. The agency’s lack of transparency and accountability put the health of the public and detainees at risk. We're seeing similar situations occur across the country fueled by ICE's culture of secrecy. I'm proud to introduce the POD Act which will allow members of Congress to conduct the oversight that this administration refuses to do and introduce transparency into a broken system. People are dying and we can't wait a moment longer."

At a press conference outside an Aurora, Colorado detention facility that he was denied access to earlier this year, Rep. Crow added, “I believe that government works best when the public has access to information about what it’s doing with taxpayer money. This is a commonsense bill. It’s about transparency, it’s about community and making sure we know what government is doing.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) argues that it’s “imperative” that members of Congress be allowed to enter detention facilities to oversee their management:

“There is no greater responsibility than the care of the children in custody. Just this week another child died in CPB custody, adding for a total of 4 just this year. Even one is one too many. That’s why Congress’s authority to monitor and oversee Executive Branch activity is one of the most important constitutional duties assigned to the Legislative Branch. If our representatives are unable to properly engage with DHS or HHS detention centers to determine whether our laws are being faithfully carried out, our Constitution ceases to operate as it was originally intended. It is imperative that all members of Congress are allowed timely entry into detention centers that house immigrants and migrant children in order to ensure the safety and well-being of these families.”

The National Immigrant Justice Center is among a number of organizations that support this bill. Haddy Gassama, a Detention Oversight Fellow at the organization, says:

"The longer we allow ICE and CBP to run their facilities in the dark, the more we perpetuate the rights abuses that exist in these jails. Uninhibited access into all immigration detention facilities for Members  of Congress is an essential step in holding ICE and CBP accountable for the conditions of their facilities and their treatment of detained immigrants.”

In a statement, Nicole Melaku, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, added that Congressional oversight with a minimal notification period will help ensure better accountability at detention centers across the country.

This bill has nine Democratic cosponsors. Rep. Crow is currently in the process of seeking a Republican cosponsor. He contends that since there are ICE detention centers in both Democratic and Republican Congressional districts, this issue should transcend politics.

This bill is endorsed by Project on Government Oversight, UnidosUS, National Council of Jewish Women, Inc., Church World Service, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), National Immigrant Justice Center, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Colorado People’s Alliance (COPA), Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Village Exchange Center, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN), and ECDC African Community Center.


Of NoteCongressional visits to ICE detention centers have historically taken weeks to organize, and some legislators, including Rep. Crow, then-Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have been denied access altogether. In February 2019, Rep. Crow was denied access to an adult immigration detention facility in Aurora, Colorado after he asked for a walkthrough to learn more about the health care resources available to address a chickenpox outbreak among the facility’s 1,500-plus detainees as well as reported mumps cases. Ultimately, Rep. Crow was only given a tour of the facility three weeks after his initial visit request.

Lawmakers are already allowed to drop in on detention facilities for unaccompanied migrant children. This requirement was established through legislation that Congress passed in 2018.

In addition to Congressional oversight, there is also a little-known policy, called “stakeholder procedures,” established in 2011, allowing the public to monitor conditions in ICE detention centers. This “Access Directive” outlines a process by which individuals or groups can tour ICE facilities if they send a request to the overseeing ICE field officer, along with several proposed dates, at least two weeks in advance. However, in March 2017, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), told Rewire News that ICE had rejected six of its requests for access over a two-month period. It, along with the ACLU and over 400 groups and individuals, wrote a letter to ICE in March 2017 urging the agency to ensure public access to and oversight of immigrant detention.

In response to CIVIC’s letter, ICE’s Acting Director, Thomas Homan, said the agency “appreciates the work of CIVIC and other community-based visitation programs” and has a “strong desire” to continue to facilitate their access to immigration detention facilities.

Nationally, there are over 200 immigrant detention facilities, with a record-high 49,000 beds. Allegations of overcrowding, poor conditions, human rights violations, inadequate health services, usage of slave labor and abuse of solitary confinement have been levied against many of these facilities by advocates, detainees, and human rights watchdog groups.

Currently, inspections of ICE jails are conducted by a private company, Nakamoto Group, as well as ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight (ODO), neither of which investigates all of the country’s ICE facilities in any given year. On average, Nakamoto inspects an average of 100 facilities each year and ODO inspected an average of 28 facilities in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017. In addition to these inspections, there’s supposed to be a “continuous” monitoring program, but that also doesn’t occur at every ICE facility.

In June 2018, the DHS OIG released a report calling ICE detention centers profoundly dangerous places with few safeguards to protect detainees’ rights. The report further detailed how ICE inspections and monitoring of immigrant detention facilities fail on multiple levels.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: Customs and Border Protection / Public Domain)

AKA

POD Act of 2019

Official Title

To prohibit any limitation on the entry of a Member of Congress to any facility for the detention of aliens, and for other purposes.

    They should be able to enter without notice! They should be able to document conditions with pen & paper, photos, & videos. They should be granted access to every single area, to ask questions of any person, and to have access to any documentation they request. They are our representatives. It is their job to ensure our tax dollars are not being used inappropriately. It is their job to be informed. Not allowing Congress access to the biggest crisis we have, screams of cover up. From the information we already have, we know there are problems. We know children are sick, dying, being taken away from their parents, and becoming lost! There is something wrong. There is something immoral. There is something evil happening. I’m tired of my tax dollars being spent to treat other humans in this way. Congress needs access to investigate & begin working to resolve this crisis. To end mass immigration from countries, you need to WORK ON ROOT CAUSES! Not torture families fleeing violence.
    Like (400)
    Follow
    Share
    No. Access should be granted instantly at any time. What is being hidden in these camps?
    Like (270)
    Follow
    Share
    Members of Congress should be able to access these concentration camps at all times. It’s time for the citizens of this country to know what is being done in our name.
    Like (177)
    Follow
    Share
    Yes but why a 48 hour wait? Any inspection should be at any time. The only reason for a wait time is if someone has something to hide.
    Like (174)
    Follow
    Share
    Members of Congress should be allowed to get into any facility like this when they want to instantly. They should be allowed anywhere except secured military bases wherever they want. I’m more surprised that they can’t go where they want to.
    Like (116)
    Follow
    Share
    Detention facilities should be held to the same standard of “notice” as ICE agents are when they conduct surprise raids. This issue must be addressed in a bi-partisan way through legislation. What is the hold up McConnell? Fear of the orange idiot in the WH?
    Like (102)
    Follow
    Share
    I have to go along with the representative from Colorado on this. Though it is claimed there is access to detention centers, this and several other representatives have been denied access on at least three separate occasions. I have read of occasions when Representatives have had appointments and still are turned away. This is necessary for oversight and at least improved if not complete transparency with ICE which is proving to be the least trustworthy agency in the US. My only concern is why a representative of the US government would not be granted immediate access to a detention center if there were nothing to hide.
    Like (68)
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    Members of Congress should be able to enter detention facilities with no notice. Further, they should stay for lunch and/or dinner and be fed the same meals that the asylum seekers are fed.
    Like (64)
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    Members of Congress should be allowed to enter immigration detention centers at any point in time without any notice! If they have to give notice, it only allows these centers to hide any sort of atrocities that they don’t want people to see!
    Like (48)
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    Absolutely let members of Congress into immigrant detention centers. They represent the citizens of USA. We have a right to oversight of executive branch and agencies. Transparency is needed on immigration situation. trump and trump’s corrupt criminal regime is sneaky, secretive and corrupt. We cannot trust this trump regime.
    Like (42)
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    Access to detention facilities should be immediate. Senators and Representatives: you are being judged for not acting humane towards CHILDREN who are being mistreated! God will judge you and your constituents as well! You better be afraid! Do the right thing!
    Like (40)
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    Members of Congress shouldn't be required to warn anyone before inspection! Because warning someone your inspecting them usually defeats the purpose!
    Like (38)
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    They are our public Representatives, they should be able to enter those facilities without any notice! Somebody in the Trump Administration is making money off this tragedy, Taxpayers money!
    Like (30)
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    In fact they should be able to come anytime! What are they trying to hide!?
    Like (24)
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    With the reports of inhumane treatment of detainees, Congress has a right as well as a duty to see for themselves, go where-ever they want, talk to anyone they want. Once again- "checks and balances". Nursing homes in most states have unannounced inspections to assure that proper standards are met and that residents are properly treated, I see little difference except this is a matter of our nation abiding by its own standards. I support anytime access for Congressional representatives, with appropriate delays to ensure their security.
    Like (24)
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    Members of Congress and reporters should be allowed to walk through the doors when ever they like. Why do you need to prepare for someone’s arrival. Do your jobs and do them right and it does not matter when they show up. Right?
    Like (24)
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    With more then two dozen children dead that were in our care... I think a LOT more oversight would be good! Why should anyone have to wait to enter?
    Like (24)
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    Access to these facilities by members of Congress should be without condition. What is happening in these detention centers is a crime against humanity.
    Like (23)
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    I feel that 48 hours notice is a bit too generous. Congressmen/women should be able to show up completely unannounced and with up to 5 personal guests. This manufactured crisis at the border needs all the attention it can get. As a parent and a patriot nothing angers me like knowing we are intentionally mistreating people. Many of whom are children.
    Like (23)
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    Legislators must be able to visit these facilities at any time. Reported conditions at these detainment centers are a tragedy and a stain on our country’s history.
    Like (21)
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