Hormone treatments for transgendered detainees, abortion services and extensive outlets for complaints — these are just a few of the reasons Texas Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith is not pleased with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) recently released Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS).
In the spirit of detention reform, in 2011, for the first time since 2008, ICE finished its revision of detention standards for those being held for being in the country illegally. Those new standards were released this month. ICE has already started to implement the changes.
“PBNDS 2011 is crafted to improve medical and mental health services, increase access to legal services and religious opportunities, improve communication with detainees with limited English proficiency, improve the process for reporting and responding to complaints, reinforce protections against sexual abuse and assault, and increase recreation and visitation,” an ICE representative explained in its PBNDS fact sheet.
According to Smith, however, the revisions amount to a vast and expensive expansion of privileges.
“The Obama administration’s new detention manual is more like a hospitality guideline for illegal immigrants,” Smith wrote in a statement. “The administration goes beyond common sense to accommodate illegal immigrants and treats them better than citizens in federal custody.”
The standards chronicle a wide range of amenities and rights accorded to each detainee during their stay, including extensive regulations on things such as body searches, room space, recreational time, visitation, the interaction ICE officials can have with them and food expectations — including adherence to detainee dietary restrictions. (RELATED: Full coverage of illegal immigration)
The standards also outline a wide range of medical procedures available to those in detention facilities, including services such as abortion access, hormone treatments for transgendered people, dental work and a 15-day supply of medications upon release, deportation or transfer.
An ICE representative said that the new procedures are fiscally sound.
“It is important to note that one of the main goals of the agency, in addition to prioritizing the health and safety of detainees in our custody and improving conditions of confinement, is to increase fiscal prudence and efficiencies within the system,” the ICE representative explained to The Daily Caller.
While the official said these changes are geared toward fiscal prudence, Smith is not buying it.
“Illegal immigration already costs American taxpayers billions each year, and these increased regulations force them to keep an open tab for illegal immigrants,” Smith said.
According to ICE, average agency cost to remove an alien is about $10,043, but that figure does not include the average costs to other agencies that are involved in the immigration enforcement process. Total removal costs taxpayers between $23,000 and $30,000 per alien.
“[P]art of ICE’s detention reform efforts are also aimed at putting detention centers in strategic locations that reduce detainee transfers within the detention system and increase overall operational efficiencies, allowing for a reduction in detainees’ average length of stay in ICE custody (by an average of 14 days) and subsequent cost savings for the federal government,” an ICE representative explained. “Overall, ICE’s detention reform efforts, including the implementation of PBNDS 2011, are designed to improve medical care, custodial conditions, fiscal prudence and oversight of the immigration detention system, and reinforce protections against sexual abuse and assault.”