Congressman Brian Bilbray, Chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus (IRC), and 18 other Members of Congress and the IRC have sent the following letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for clarification of recent reports of illegal immigrant detention facilities providing bingo and movie nights, continental breakfasts, dance classes, art lessons and cooking courses to detainees awaiting deportation, at taxpayer expense.
Congressman Bilbray is available for interviews regarding the letter. The text of the letter follows.
June 23, 2010
The Honorable John T. Morton
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Department of Homeland Security
500 12th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20536
Dear Secretary Morton:
Recent media reports have indicated that regulations at certain U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) will undergo regulatory changes meant to make the detention system "less penal and more humane" by "offering art classes, bingo and continental breakfast on the weekends" among other changes. While we certainly agree that detainees should be treated with respect, we have serious concerns about potential short- and long-term costs to the taxpayer as well as the safety and well-being of staff, detainees and visitors when implementing these new regulations.
For this reason, we are asking that you provide us with answers to the following questions no later than July 1, 2010:
1. ICE has made claims that implementing these regulations will not increase costs to the American taxpayer. However, after analyzing these new regulatory changes, we do not see how the increased staff, security improvements, and infrastructure upgrades that go hand in hand with these regulations will not require increased taxpayer funding. For this reason, please describe what additional costs you foresee to implement these regulations.
2. Will these reported changes be expanded to other ICE detention facilities? If so, which facilities? If not, can you pledge that you will not expand them?
3. The recent media reports have indicated that implementation of these new regulations will occur between 30 days and six months. What is the specific timeline for each of the regulation changes?
4. It is reported that regulatory changes are for "low-risk detainees." What constitutes a low-risk detainee? On average, how many in CCA facilities are considered low risk?
5. Who was consulted to develop these revisions? Please include copies of all communications related to these changes from ICE, DHS, and White House officials.
6. Were any experts in detention management, either from within ICE or externally, consulted? If so, who was consulted?
7. How was CCA notified of these regulatory changes? Additionally, by whom, when, and in what format?
8. It is reported that low-risk detainees will have "free movement" within the facility. What is the definition of free movement and how will safety to staff and other detainees be ensured?
9. It is reported that low-risk detainees will be allowed to wear "non penal clothing." What is the definition of non penal clothing? How will detainees be differentiated between staff and visitors?
10. It is reported that pat-downs for low-risk detainees will be eliminated. How will safety needs be met? How will contraband be kept out of the facility? What about contraband that is created in the facility?
11. It is reported that "lights-out" will be eliminated for low-risk detainees. How will this change increase staffing needs? Will this be a disruption to detainees who wish to sleep? How do you prevent one from disturbing others?
As Members of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, we appreciate your expedient attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.
Brian Bilbray, Member of Congress
Lamar Smith, Member of Congress
Sue Myrick, Member of Congress
Howard Coble, Member of Congress
Steve King, Member of Congress
Dan Burton, Member of Congress
Dana Rohrbacher, Member of Congress
Mike Coffman, Member of Congress
Jason Chaffetz, Member of Congress
John Boozman, Member of Congress
Michele Bachmann, Member of Congress
Ed Royce, Member of Congress
Paul Broun, Member of Congress
Duncan Hunter, Member of Congress
Elton Gallegly, Member of Congress
John Carter, Member of Congress
Ginny Brown-Waite, Member of Congress
Ted Poe, Member of Congress
Gary Miller, Member of Congress