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DHS announces new immigration detention reform initiatives
October 07, 2009

DHS announces new immigration detention reform initiatives
The detention center in Florence, Ariz. (Christian Fuchs - JRS/USA)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton announced new initiatives Tuesday, Oct. 6, as part of the Department’s ongoing immigration detention reform efforts.

“These new initiatives will improve accountability and safety in our detention facilities as we continue to engage in smart and effective enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws,” said Napolitano.

“These new reforms will establish consistent standards across the country, prioritizing risk, strengthening oversight and increasing efficiency in our immigration detention system,” Morton said.

Napolitano and Morton also announced that Phyllis Coven will serve as Acting Director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning while a nationwide search for a permanent director is underway. Coven, who has 17 years of experience in the federal government and international community, comes to ICE from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Throughout her career, Coven has chaired numerous detention initiatives at the Department of Justice and the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.

To better manage special populations and improve program management, ICE will house non-criminal, non-violent populations, such as newly arriving asylum seekers, at facilities commensurate with risk and expand programs available including legal support services. A risk assessment and custody classification is to be developed which will enable detainees to be placed in an appropriate facility. ICE will pursue detention strategies based on assessed risk and reduce costs by exploring the use of converted hotels, nursing homes and other residential facilities.

ICE will centralize all contracts under ICE headquarters' supervision. Currently, the majority of more than 300 active contracts are negotiated and managed by disparate ICE field offices. ICE will aggressively monitor and enforce contract performance in order to ensure contractors comply with terms and conditions — especially those related to conditions of confinement.

ICE will also develop an assessment tool to identify undocumented migrants suitable for alternatives to detention and will submit a plan to Congress this fall to implement an ATD program nationwide.

A medical classification system will be designed which will improve awareness of an individual detainee's medical and mental health conditions from the time the individual first enters detention.

To ensure accountability and reduce reliance on contractors, ICE will more than double the number of federal personnel providing onsite oversight at the facilities where the majority of detainees are housed. ICE will also accelerate efforts to provide an online search system for attorneys, family members and others to locate detained aliens.

ICE Immigration Detention Overview and Recommendations Report

Core Principles to Guide Long-Term Efforts:

One-Year Benchmarks:

Napolitano has also established one-year benchmarks for detention reform that will be completed by the end of fiscal year 2010:
Review contracts for all detention facilities to identify opportunities for improvement and move forward with renegotiation and termination of contracts as warranted. Revise immigration detention standards to reflect the conditions appropriate for various immigration detainee populations; and issue two competitive bids for detention facilities that will reflect all five core principles of immigration detention reform.

Immediate Reforms:

Secretary Napolitano and Assistant Secretary John Morton announced the following reforms on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Implementation will begin immediately. Each of these reforms are expected to be budget neutral or result in cost savings through reduced reliance on contractors to perform key federal duties and additional oversight of all contracts.

Population Management

Effective immediately, ICE will create a library of contracts for all facilities with which ICE has active agreements and centralize all contracts under ICE headquarters’ supervision. At present, the Office of Acquisitions at ICE headquarters negotiates and manages only 80 of the more than 300 active contracts for detention facilities. The remaining contracts are overseen by disparate ICE field offices and the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee. Effective immediately, ICE will aggressively monitor and enforce contract performance in order to ensure contractors comply with terms and conditions—especially those related to conditions of confinement. When confronted with repeated contractual deficiencies, ICE will pursue all available avenues for remedying poor performance, including termination of contracts. 
Cost: In the long term, this effort is expected to yield cost savings and a better managed and more efficient contracting process, though these initiatives may require additional resources at headquarters.

Alternatives to Detention (ATD)

This fall, ICE will submit to Congress a nationwide implementation plan for the Alternatives to Detention Program (ATD). ICE will develop an assessment tool to identify aliens suitable for ATD. ICE will continue

Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
202-462-0400 ext. 5946