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Data on immigrant detention raises specter of torture

For years there have been domestic and international complaints about the way in which the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement department handles immigrant detainees. There have likely been groups within Lancaster and across Pennsylvania who have tried to draw attention to the conditions facing immigrants who are picked up by police and turned over to ICE agents. New information has emerged, however, that will frighten readers all over again.

It seems that there are approximately 300 immigrants held in solitary confinement on a daily basis, many of whom are secluded for their own "protection." Many of the immigrants arrested are gay or are mentally ill and are locked up with extremely limited contact to other people in an effort to protect them from inmates who may try to harm them. The problem, of course, is that solitary confinement can be disastrous for an individual's mental and physical health.

In some of the most serious cases detainees will spend more than 75 days in solitary confinement, well past the 15-day maximum that the United Nations special rapporteur on torture recommends. After 15 days, the sensory deprivation could be considered torture. Sometimes the individuals will be held in solitary lockdown for up to 23 hours at a time, only getting brief exercise and time with others.

Immigrant detention is a serious issue in Pennsylvania and across the country, one that is getting considerable attention. For those individuals who are actually being detained, however, one of the only ways out of detention may be by working with an immigration attorney. A lawyer can help the immigrant exercise his or her rights as he or she fights to remain in the country.

Source: The New York Times, "Immigrants Held in Solitary Cells, Often for Weeks," Ian Urbina and Catherine Rentz, March 23, 2013

Discover more about immigrant detention on our Lancaster deportation defense page.

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