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April 19, 2014

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Groups protest plight of immigrant detainees, seek talks with Henderson officials

Image

Steve Marcus

Katelyn Cantu holds a sign as protesters pose for a photo outside the Henderson Detention Center Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. The protesters are concerned about a UNLV law clinic report that raises questions about the conditions for immigrants at the detention center.

Protest at Henderson Detention Center

Katelyn Cantu, left, Alissa Cooley, center, and Katelyn Franklin make signs outside the Henderson Detention Center Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. Protesters are concerned about a UNLV law clinic report that raises questions about the conditions for immigrants at the detention center. Launch slideshow »

New Henderson Detention Center

This is the entrance to the Henderson Detention Center Oct. 16th, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Map of Henderson Detention Center

Henderson Detention Center

243 South Water Street, Henderson

Following the release of a UNLV Law Clinic report questioning the standards of care for immigrant detainees at the Henderson Detention Center, on Tuesday evening law professor Fatma Marouf asked the Henderson City Council to meet with herself and the other authors to address their concerns.

The request made during the city council’s public comment period came after approximately 20 protesters, including UNLV Law Clinic representatives and advocacy group Immigration Reform for Nevada, rallied outside of the Henderson Detention Center calling for reform.

On Tuesday the UNLV Law Clinic released a report, the product of interviews conducted by immigration law students over two semesters with 29 immigrant detainees that cited several issues of due process and treatment of detainees involving Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Henderson Detention Center.

The report was released on the same day as, and included in, a report by the national advocacy group Detention Watch.

“We believe the problems identified in our report are quite fixable,” Marouf told the council. “Compared to some other detention centers in the country HDC is in many ways on track. However, we did find violations of ICE’s policies pertaining to issues such as access to legal assistance and legal resources, verbal abuse including some derogatory language, some more mild forms of physical abuse, and access to medical care.”

Detainees interviewed by the UNLV Law Clinic students said they were told they could only use the law library from 12 a.m. to 7 a.m., that they were often coerced into signing documents they did not understand and some complained of waiting weeks or even months to see a doctor.

At a facility in Eloy, Ariz., two immigrant detainees committed suicide in separate events this year, and a total of nine immigrants have died in custody this year, none in Henderson, according to the Detention Watch report.

Both ICE and Henderson officials have said they are reviewing the report and the claims. Federal officials and outside contractors inspect the Henderson jail regularly, ICE officials pointed out, and it has always been found in compliance with detention standards.

“We will meet with ICE, and, just like we have always done, we will address any problems that need to be addressed,” Henderson spokesman Bud Cranor said after Marouf addressed the city council.

“We appreciate the tough situations some of those from this population can be in,” Cranor added. “We provide a service to ICE for a job that needs to be done, and we will comply with the requirements. We have always worked with ICE to address concerns.”

Marouf said a meeting with ICE representatives is scheduled for later this week.

ICE detains approximately 400,000 immigrants each year at 250 facilities across the country. ICE runs a few facilities but the majority are either run by state and local governments or private companies. ICE is statutorily obligated to detain certain people including those who have committed a range of crimes, or multiple crimes, and those who have ignored deportation orders.

In February 2011, Henderson jail became the primary location for detaining immigrants in the state when it completed an expansion that added 250 beds. In the 2012-13 fiscal year Henderson Detention Center, with a daily average of 254 immigrants, was the 40th most busy detention center in ICE’s network. The contract is major revenue generator for the city. The city makes $10 million to $12 million annually in revenue from the federal contract, and providing the service cost the city between $5 million and $6 million each year.

“I’d like to see ICE using more alternatives to detention, like GPS monitoring, instead putting people in prison,” said Carlos Silva, director of Immigration Reform of Nevada. “There are more cost effective ways to track people without separating families.”

J.T. Creedon, who also attended the rally, said he has an immigrant friend being detained at Henderson jail currently who has been held for over a year.

“The city is providing a service and getting much-needed revenue out of it, and I understand that. But it's our federal tax dollars that are still paying for it,” Creedon said. “I just think there are ways where folks could get processed a lot quicker. The system needs to be more efficient and cost effective.”

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