Given the U.S government’s increasing criminal disregard for the human rights of immigrants, we the members of Sanctuary for All Colorado applaud the congressional initiative for regular oversight of the conditions in these facilities.
However, any such initiatives must center around the demands of detainees and their families, as well as members of the communities where GEO is allowed to operate. We must force the GEO Group to prove its worthiness as an actor in the immigration process, or condemn the company and its employees as harshly as the human traffickers from whom our government claims an interest in protecting migrants. Any effort on the part of ICE or the Department of Human Services to define their own benchmarks for compliance must also be met with severe skepticism, so we offer the following list of minimum requirements for a private detention facility before it can be considered as more than a concentration camp.
We are calling on the GEO Group to immediately comply with the following demands:
- Ensure unfettered access to fundamental health and sanitation services (clean water, nutritious food prepared in compliance with sanitation codes, ample grassy outdoor recreation space and time allocated therein, medical treatment, etc.)
- Maintain each detainee’s right to communicate, via phone and contact visits, with family, friends, legal counsel and other visitors
- Expand the list of acceptable IDs that visitors can provide for visitation access, regardless of their documentation status
- Maintain an appropriate staff-to-detainee ratio, per number of individuals detained, with an established humane maximum capacity that also complies with building fire and safety codes
- Require all GEO employees to engage in ongoing mandatory anti-racism and human rights violations training, including eliminating inappropriate use of restraints
- Allow legal and humanitarian observers to investigate facility conditions, staffed by independent, qualified non-GEO and non-U.S. Government individuals
- Provide access to immigration-related legal services to all detainees
- Mandate a reporting service allowing GEO employees to anonymously contact an
external organization when detainees’ rights are being abused.
- Give all detainees at least 72 hours’ notice ahead of their release
- Make information regarding all of the above publicly available
The community will participate in this oversight process by interviewing recently released detainees and their families to ensure these demands have been met. If the GEO Group cannot operate within a minimal standard of humanity at an acceptable profit, then alternatives to privatized detention that respect the needs of affected families and interested community members must be explored. Our responsibility to those affected by our nation’s increasingly inhuman detention policies and processes cannot end with a mere relocation of detainees, which in itself would constitute a step toward undue family separation.
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