Dozens of Democrats in the House and Senate introduced legislation this week that would make it harder to hold illegal aliens in custody if they qualify as a “vulnerable person,” such as those who are gay, lesbian or transgender, who don’t speak English, or who meet other definitions of the term under the bill.
The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is aimed at setting minimum standards for detention facilities where thousands of illegal aliens are kept as they await processing. Among other things, it would bar the use of private detention facilities and make sure government-run facilities meet minimum standards as defined by the American Bar Association.
“Our immigration system has allowed for the unjust treatment of immigrants and stripped them of their humanity and due process,” Booker said in a Thursday statement. “We must respect and protect the basic rights of immigrants detained in the United States.”
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Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is one of a handful of senators seeking to ease detention rules for illegal aliens. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Under the legislation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could arrest illegal aliens and either release them on bond or detain them while a decision is made on whether to remove them from the country. The bill sets out new rules on detention that favor aliens.
For example, officials would have to decide within 48 hours whether to detain an alien, and could only detain them after a determination that “the release of an alien will not reasonably ensure the appearance of the alien as required or will endanger the safety” of others. In those cases, DHS “shall impose the least restrictive conditions” for detention, and ensure they get a custody hearing within 72 hours. And in those hearings, “there shall be a presumption that the alien should be released,” the bill said.
But the bill goes further by seeking to exempt several groups of illegal aliens from any detention at all. It creates a “special rule for vulnerable persons and primary caregivers,” and says these aliens “may not be detained” unless DHS can demonstrate that it is “unreasonable or not practicable to place the alien in a community-based supervision program.”
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Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., says easing detention rules will help restore dignity to the thousands of aliens seeking to enter the U.S. each year. (Tyler Olson/Fox News)
Under the bill, “vulnerable person” is defined as anyone who is under 21 or older than 60, pregnant, or who “identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex.” Other vulnerable aliens are those who are a victim of or witness to a crime, anyone who has filed a nonfrivolous civil rights claim in court, anyone with a workplace claim, and those with a “serious mental or physical illness or disability.”
Aliens with a credible fear of persecution, “limited English language proficiency,” those experiencing “severe trauma,” and survivors of “torture or gender-based violence” also meet the definition of a “vulnerable person” for which DHS must take extra steps before detaining.
Even if DHS can clear this extra hurdle for vulnerable aliens and manage to detain them, DHS must still hold new custody determination hearings every 60 days, or any time changed circumstances require a new hearing.
Democrats supporting the bill said it’s needed to restore the dignity of aliens held after trying to enter the U.S.
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President Biden has been criticized by Republicans for signaling to the world that immigrants are free to cross the border and find refuge in America. (White House)
“The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act urgently reforms the alarming injustices of a broken, for-profit immigration detention system by ending the use of private detention facilities altogether, repealing mandatory detention, and prohibiting family detention while also restoring due process and increasing oversight, accountability, and transparency measures,” said Jayapal. “This is a measure that will go a long way to restore humanity and dignity to the immigration system.”
“This bill is a crucial step forward to bringing due process back to our immigration system and centering the humanity and dignity of people who come to our country to build a better life,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., another sponsor.
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The legislation is sponsored by dozens of House Democrats, including House Majority Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and a handful of Senate Democrats.