Boxer: Detainees at border deserve better

Legislation introduced Thursday would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to impose new regulations for the treatment of those kept at short-term detention facilities along the U.S. borders.

Penned by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the bill comes in response to reports that detainees at Customs and Border Protection (CPB) facilities are routinely subjected to overcrowding and extreme temperatures.

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Detainees, both illegal immigrants and U.S. citizens, have reportedly been denied food, medication and the use of toilets, and have seen legal documents and identification confiscated or destroyed, Boxer said. 

“No human being held by United States authorities should ever be exposed to hunger, extreme temperatures, physical or verbal abuse, or denial of medical care,” Boxer said.

The CBP has already drafted detention standards for people in short-term custody, but Boxer said there is evidence they are not consistently followed.

If passed, the legislation would require the DHS to develop a set of minimum standards to ensure detainee access to food, water, bathrooms and beds, and accommodations for pregnant women and individuals with medical needs or disabilities.

The agency would be given discretion to shape the standards, which also would cover detainees’ personal belongings and compliance with DHS sexual abuse reduction policies, Boxer said.

The agency’s Office of Inspector General would conduct annual inspections of the CBP facilities under the bill.

Boxer offered the measure earlier this year as an amendment to the sweeping immigration reform bill that ultimately was approved by the Senate. The chamber did not formally consider the amendment.

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