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Tucson Forum Set on Alleged Abuse of Detained Immigrants

July 11, 2011

TUCSON, Ariz. - The alleged mistreatment of thousands of immigrants in Arizona detention centers will be discussed Tuesday evening at a community forum in Tucson. A two-year study by ACLU Arizona documents inhumane conditions, abuse and a lack of adequate legal protection for some 3,000 detained immigrants.

Ten percent of the country's detained immigrant population is being held in Arizona. Many of the detainees have been held for months - or even years - while appealing their legal status.

ACLU Arizona staff attorney Victoria Lopez says some of the worst abuses were found at the Pinal County Jail, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts for bed space.

"They noted verbal and mental abuse by guards. They noted a lack of ability for detainees to have contact visits with their family members. They noted detainees not having the opportunity to have outdoor recreation."

ICE officials say conditions at the Pinal County Jail meet or exceed federal detention standards. However, Lopez says, no one but ICE monitors conditions, the standards vary from facility to facility and they are not legally enforceable.

The ACLU report findings demonstrate the need for immediate reform of the immigration detention system, Lopez says. She suggests that a good first step would be for the federal government to terminate a costly contract that pays the Pinal County Jail an estimated $13 million a year to house immigrants.

"Detention costs are much, much higher than some alternatives to detention, which can cost as little as $12 dollars per day. At the Pinal County Jail, for example, the federal government contracts $59 dollars per day, per detainee."

Lopez adds there's a major misperception among the public about who is being held in Arizona's federal detention centers. She says they detainees are not necessarily "illegal" immigrants.

"Many of those being held are people who have legal permanent resident status and, in fact, may have an opportunity under the current U.S. immigration laws to fix their immigration status or remain legally in the United States."

The forum starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Pima Community College downtown campus.

The report is available at www.acluaz.org.


Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ