Immigrant Women Detainees Face Inhumane Treatment, Separation from Families

Article excerpt

We all have read the headlines about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, where prisoners face long and arduous imprisonment that is both inhumane and degrading. Few of us know that right here in our country there are more than 400 local, state and federal "detention centers" housing 280,000-plus immigrants.

These "detainees" often face some of the same conditions as prisoners of war: no due process or access to legal counsel; inadequate health care; inhumane treatment; mental and physical stress; separation from their children and families, even nursing infants; language and cultural barriers; sexual assault; and the constant threat of deportation without regard to the detainees legal status or absence of criminal behavior.

Most of them have been detained as a result of workplace raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At an annual cost of over $1.2 billion dollars, the United States is placing immigrants in detention centers under conditions inconsistent with the values of the largest democracy in the world. Many of these detainees are legal residents and half of them have no criminal record, but they have been judged suspicious.

NOW Foundation, in our role as co-founder of the National Coalition for Immigrant Women's Rights (NCIWR), is concerned about this issue because 10 percent of these detainees are women - both undocumented and documented.

Many of these women have been in the U.S. for years and are now facing exile, and most of them are asylum-seekers fleeing persecution, torture, rape and other forms of violence in their native countries. Many have been caught up in raids at their workplace or picked up in their homes or neighborhoods by ICE. Most have families, including small children; some are pregnant; some are seriously ill, without access to proper medication or care; some are the sole or primary support for their families. …