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ACLU wants better treatment for detained immigrants | News

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ACLU wants better treatment for detained immigrants
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ATLANTA -- The American Civil Liberties Union says for-profit detention centers are making money off immigrants pain.  

On Wednesday, the ACLU released a 182-page report outlining concerns it has about Georgia's four detention centers: Atlanta City in Atlanta, North Georgia in Gainesville, Irwin County in Ocilla and Stewart County in Lumpkin. Three of the detention centers are operated by private, for-profit companies.

The ACLU says it spent three years going through open records requests, made site visits and interviewed 68 detainees.  

At the conclusion of the investigation, the ACLU says taxpayers shell out more than $5 million dollars a day to detain illegal immigrants, but are not getting their money's worth.

Three years ago, President Obama promised to make immigration detention more "civil." 

But the ACLU says detainees are still housed in jail like facilities. That at one facility, they rarely get fruit or green vegetables and complain of being served undercooked or expired food. Detainees also say they've had to wait up to a week for toilet paper and have been issued "used" shaving razors and underwear.   Many of these complaints, if true, are in violation of ICE's own standards.

Just as concerning, the ACLU says two of Georgia's facilities are so remote, detainees have limited access to their families and legal care.  It claims several immigrants were harassed by immigration judges and even forced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, or ICE, to sign forms written in English, giving up their rights to hearing. 

"These violations are egregious. People came on record being violated, people are being deprived of basic, basic dignity and we believe that the conditions of detention really run counter to the American values of justice and liberty and that's something we should all care about," said Azadeh Shahshahani, project director for the ACLU's National Security and Immigrants' Rights division.

Vincent Picard, a spokesperson for ICE says the agency is still in the process of reviewing the report, but says so far it has found "many unsubstantiated and factually incorrect claims."  

In a written statement ICE said it could only identify a portion of the detainees involved in the allegations, but of those, at least four who claimed to have been pressured into signing documents would not have even been eligible for them.  

"The report goes on to allege, based on these false claims, that ICE and other officers violate international law and coerce non-citizens into waiving their rights. Such factually inaccurate and unsubstantiated anecdotal information serves as a poor foundation from which to draw such sweeping accusations," said Picard.

ICE says all four of the detention facilities were inspected within the last year and have found to be in compliance with ICE standards.  ICE has been working since 2009 to improve conditions of confinement.  "As a part of these reform efforts, ICE management has officers assigned on-site at all of these facilities to continuously assess living conditions, ensure compliance with the detention standards, and observe routine interactions between detention facility staff and ICE detainees," said Picard.

The ACLU isn't sold.  It says too many inmates are intimidated to report problems and punished when they do. 

The ACLU would like to see two of the facilities, Stewart and Irwin, shut down and a better review system put in place to monitor the others.  It would also like to see ICE use other alternatives to detention.

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