Bill to improve treatment of Asylum seekers and immigrants

Among the horde of Bills being introduced lately in the Senate, “The Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act” (S. 3114) introduced on June 11, 2008 by a bi-partisan group of Senators, has been long due and a welcome one. The bill is aimed at ensuring that asylum seekers and other detained immigrants are treated humanely while in custody. This has been marked as a significant issue in what is being considered an immigration system in need of serious overhaul.

The provisions of the Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act aim to:

  1. Improved detention conditions, including prompt medical care, access to legal counsel, limits on punishments like solitary confinement and special care for families and for victims of persecution and torture;
  2. Enhance the rights of asylum seekers and detainees by pushing for prompt review of cases by immigration judge, and subsequent push for release, if considered no risk to public safety;
  3. Enhance alternatives to detention such as supervised release programs;
  4. Introduce measures such as recording of interviews with detained asylum seekers etc, to ensure no one is sent back erroneously to face persecution;
  5. Establish an Office of Detention Oversight within the Department of Homeland Security to audit and investigate compliance with standards and to report to Congress; and
  6. Mandate the reporting and investigation of all deaths that occur in detention facilities.

Click here to read the Secure and Safe Detention and Asylum Act.

The Bill is sponsored by Senators Lieberman (ID-CT), Brownback (R-KS), Kennedy (D-MA), and Hagel (R-NE).

The Bill has been welcome by many human rights organization for refugees and asylees. The Bill actually implements many of the key recommendations that were made by a bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its report relating to the detention of asylum seekers. Considering the report dates back to March 2005, the Bill his long overdue, as it was pointed out by Eleanor Acer, Refugee Protection Director at Human Rights First. She pointed out that ensuring compliance with critical standards relating to medical care and legal access are of utmost importance.