Cooking classes, dance instruction, movie nights and bingo games—it sounds like amenities on a cruise ship or a resort summer camp, but these recreational offerings are some of the coming attractions for illegal aliens held at select federal detention centers.
The preliminary agreement between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its contractor for numerous detention centers, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), also calls for detainees to receive laptop computer training, access to legal materials, e-mail and phones, and to participate in arts and crafts programs as well as exercise and walking classes.
ICE spokesman Brian Hale said “these reforms” have been offered by the contractor “for consideration.”
“They are currently being evaluated and have not been implemented,” Hale said.
According to May 27 e-mail memos outlining the agreement, “RE: Immediate Attention—New ICE Requirements,” nearly 30 changes could come as early as July.
“ICE is committed to making sensible reforms to its non-criminal detention system and will continue to consider reasonable approaches that seek to achieve those goals,” Mr. Hale said.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and ranking member of the Finance Committee, is urging the administration to reconsider changing these detention standards and “giving detainees an overly-comfortable place to reside while they are prosecuted for breaking the law.”
Additional creature comforts include a Continental breakfast on weekends and holidays, a beverage bar, fresh carrot sticks and celery, and the reforms will “provide celebrations of special occasions and allowing a detainee to receive outside packaged food for celebrations.”
“Any such reforms will not be funded at any additional taxpayer expense,” Mr. Hale said.
However, the changes won’t be all fun and games, warns Chris Crane, president of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council 118 ICE, which represents 7,000 officers.
The reforms would “eliminate lock downs and lights out” for so-called non-criminal detainees and “wholly eliminate pat down searches.”
“Concerns for safety measures and responsible detention are being thrown out the window,” Crane said. “This is absolutely absurd.”
Easing these security procedures is intended for the non-criminal inmate populations who are confined in nine detention centers in Arizona, Texas, New Jersey, California, and Georgia.
However, Crane says that 90% of those populations are criminals or gang members.
“ICE has become a dumping ground for city and county jails that are overrun with criminal aliens that lack the resources to house them or prosecute them,” Crane said.
“ICE wants us to say that just because they were never convicted of a crime, we should treat them like non-criminals, and as officers, we are absolutely not willing to do that,” Crane said.
“They have not gone before a court for drug, assault, rape, you name it, or cleared of any charges. ICE is trying to put it out to the public that these folks are non-criminals, and that’s just not the case,” Crane said.
Crain said the proposed reforms are “political” and that Obama administration officials are “more concerned with pushing amnesty than enforcement of immigration laws.”
The new reforms will “provide four hours or more of recreation in a natural setting, allowing for robust aerobic exercise.”
In addition, it will “allow visitors to come for as long as they like during a 12-hour period each day and on weekends” and “design and provide an area at each facility for contract visitation.”
The elimination of certain security procedures, like pat-down searches after 12 hour visits with the public, will make it impossible to stop the smuggling of drugs or weapons into the facility. Mix that into “an open-campus resort-type atmosphere” with criminals and “it’s a recipe for disaster,” Crane said.
Grassley said in his June 11 letter to John Morton, ICE assistant secretary, that “gang members and the like will now have an easier time to ply their trade in this setting, jeopardizing the safety of the other detainees and correction officers.”
The new agreement aims to “soften the look for the facility with hanging plants, flower baskets, new paint colors, different bedding and furniture, wall graphics and framed pictures on the walls, and enhance the aesthetics of the living areas.”
Some detainees will be allowed to wear their own clothes and they will be allowed “free movement within the institution.”
“These detainees, low risk or not, broke the law in order to enter or remain in this country, and could have more entertainment and access to the outside world than other inmates in U.S. jails,” Grassley said.
Although the government insists the new rules won’t cost taxpayers, Crane said some reforms like staffing extended visiting hours would be a financial challenge.
“We fully support better treatment and care for the non-criminal population, but this has gotten completely off-course,” Crain said.
Added Grassley: “It’s even more frustrating given that so many American are unemployed and looking for work while illegal aliens are getting free tutoring and computer classes to advance their own lives.”