CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
The Commission and Immigration Detention: Purpose and Focus
This Statutory Enforcement Report examines the civil rights and constitutional concerns that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Commission) “raised with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component [agencies] over the treatment of adult and minor [immigrant] detainees [who are being] held under federal law in detention centers across the country.” Specifically, this report analyzes the constitutional issues surrounding DHS’s treatment of detained immigrants as well as other selected federal agencies’ efforts to comply with established Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), and the federal standards for detaining unaccompanied minor children.
It is within the Commission’s mandate to examine, study, and report upon civil rights violations inconsistent with the federal civil rights laws, the United States Constitution and the federal standards applicable to all persons within the United States and its territories. By statute, the Commission is authorized to examine federal policies and procedures that have a detrimental effect on the equal protection of law guaranteed to all persons under the Constitution. With regard to immigration, in 1980, the Commission released a report entitled The Tarnished Golden Door: Civil Rights Issues in Immigration that examined the civil rights issues surrounding the enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States. That report identified numerous issues surrounding the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) administration and enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. Since the Commission published that 1980 report, however, federal immigration laws and their enforcement practices have undergone numerous, sweeping changes.
On January 30, 2015, the Commission held a day-long briefing examining the possible civil rights violations at immigration detention facilities. Fifteen panelists participated in this briefing.
Panels consisted of government officials, academics, attorneys, and advocates. This report encompasses the key elements of the Briefing as well as additional background research and analysis.