Raising Women’s Voices

Inadequate Care for Detainees

Posted in Health Disparities by raisingwomensvoices on March 19, 2009

Human Rights Watch and The Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center both released reports Tuesday which claimed that US immigration authorities repeatedly delay, deny, or botch medical care for detained immigrants. Causes cited include untrained or apathetic staff, overcrowding, limited services, language barriers, bureaucratic red tape, as well as the detention of those with serious medical issues, the elderly, and those without criminal records.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained over 300,000 people in the 2007 fiscal year, averaging around 30,000 a day. ICE claims that they spend as much as $128 million on medical and mental health care for detained immigrants, and this year will spend $2 million to review care provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

Women in particular suffer being shackled while pregnant, missing appointments for Pap smears or mammograms, and inadequate or no prenatal care. All of which, aside from its inhumane nature, can affect deportation status. Detained women have reported failures to follow up on signs of breast and cervical cancer, and lack of counseling for survivors of violence. Detained women have also routinely been denied access to simple supplies such as sanitary pads and breast pumps for nursing mothers. As Meghan Rhoad, researcher in the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch says, “Because immigration detention is the fastest-growing form of incarceration in the United States, these abuses are especially dangerous. They remain largely hidden from public scrutiny or effective oversight.” Notably, though those detained are granted the same health rights as the community at large, the immigration agency’s policy focuses only on emergency care.

Detainees questioned reported that they eventually gave up attemping to receive medical care because of their discomfort being shackled while in transit, overall feeling of futility, and anger that security officers often refused to call medical staff or violated their privacy by watching medical exams. There have also been reports of transfer or segregation of detainees who complained about medical problems.

For access to the Human Rights Watch report click here

For access to the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center report click here

For the chron.com article click here

For the USA Today article click here

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