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A report by two Chicago human rights groups details ongoing abuses at county jails holding immigrants in the Midwest and calls on the Obama administration to end the expansion and privatization of the abusive immigration detention system.

The report, Not Too Late for Reform, authored by Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR), demonstrates that the Obama administration has failed to uphold its 2009 commitment to address the human rights crisis confronting immigrant men, women, and children in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security. The report focuses on three county jails — Jefferson County Jail and Tri-County Detention Center in Illinois and Boone County Jail in Kentucky — where the deplorable conditions of confinement are typical of immigration detention facilities across the United States. The two groups oppose the administration’s plans to open new mega-facilities across the country through contracts with private prison corporations, including Corrections Corporation of America, which has been cited for human rights violations against detained immigrants.

“The abuses we see in the Midwest are a snapshot of the abuses occurring in immigration detention centers throughout the country,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “The Obama administration must put an end to this human rights crisis by ending the expansion and privatization of this broken system. Until the administration reforms the system, there can be no justice in our country’s immigration laws.”

Specifically, the report calls on the Obama administration to:

  • Reduce mass immigration detention by abolishing harsh enforcement practices and referring more individuals into alternative to detention programs
  • Close the worst facilities nationwide, including Boone County Jail, Jefferson County Jail, and Tri-County Detention Center
  • Cancel plans of opening new facilities operated by private prison contractors that often are responsible for human rights violations
  • Restore human rights protections with strong oversight measures
  • Save taxpayer dollars by releasing from detention individuals who do not pose a threat to society and assign them to an alternative to detention program.

The report is available at:

Coinciding with the release of the report, the Interfaith Committee on Detained Immigrants will hold a press conference on Monday, December 12, at 11 a.m. highlighting the problems of the immigration detention system and calling for an end to the unnecessary mass incarceration of immigrants. The press conference will be at Methodist Temple, 77 W. Washington, Chicago. The Interfaith Committee comprises a broad base of community organizations including the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Chicago New Sanctuary, Southwest Organizing Project, Sisters of Mercy, the Office of Immigrant Affairs of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.

About the authors:

Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education.

Midwest Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) is a network of 56 organizations collaborating to promote and protect human rights in the Midwest, the U.S., and the world. MCHR provides broader visibility for urgent human rights issues in the Midwest and has a strong advocacy voice in the national and international human rights debate.