The details surrounding the deaths of several individuals inside US immigration detention centers were intentionally concealed, the New York Times reported Jan. 9. The Times, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), gathered information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) pertaining to more than 100 deaths that have occurred in the detention facilities since 2003. The Times discovered that government officials made deliberate attempts to conceal information from the media and the public, despite the Obama administration‘s promises to increase the transparency of such organizations. As a result, investigations have been conducted by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to the Times, the internal investigations provide further support that the culture of secrecy has continued in the current administration.
In the face of criticism, the Obama administration has taken steps in recent months to improve conditions for immigrant detainees. Last month, reports from the Constitution Project and Human Rights Watch indicated that the US immigration detention and transfer policies unnecessarily interfere with detainees’ rights to counsel and procedural fairness. In November, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that the Obama administration will push for immigration reform legislation early next year. In August, the ICE acknowledged that 11 deaths in immigration detention centers had gone unreported. The admission came just a week after the ICE announced that large-scale changes to the immigration detention system would take place. (Jurist, Jan. 10)