Department of Homeland Security

Democratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop ‘overuse’ of solitary confinement

Getty Images

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a bill to push Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop the “overuse” of solitary confinement in its facilities.

The Democratic senators created the legislation in response to reports from NBC News in May that found ICE had put thousands of immigrants in solitary confinement between 2012 and 2017, even as some didn’t violate the rules. 

The senators cite that one of the reasons for the legislation is the psychological effects solitary confinement has on humans. A press release on the matter noted at least seven detainees have reportedly committed suicide in ICE’s solitary confinement. One in every 200 immigrants are put in at least two weeks of solitary confinement, according to a September story in The Atlantic.

“Solitary confinement is cruel, demeaning, and abusive, and its exploitation in the context of civil immigration is indefensible,” Booker said in the release. “Solitary confinement causes serious and dangerous health consequences, and its widespread, unjustified use by ICE is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s blatant disrespect for human rights.”

The senators maintain the issue revolves around the violation of “fundamental human rights,” Durbin said in the release.

“This legislation requires ICE to comply with specific safeguards to ensure individuals are treated more humanely and ICE is not adding to the trauma many of these people have already been subjected to,” Harris said in the release.

The legislation will require immigration detention officials to have a set of standards in order to put someone in solitary confinement and put a cap on the amount of time a person can stay, except for those who “pose a serious and immediate threat.”

The bill would also ban punishing certain people with solitary confinement, like minors, those with serious mental illness, those with a physical or intellectual disability, those pregnant or who have recently given birth or those “significantly adversely affected by solitary.”

The senators’ legislation, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, would also make legal counsel and mental health care more accessible for detainees and would require weekly tracking of how often solitary confinement is used. The Department of Homeland Security would develop measures to hold ICE accountable, according to the release. 

Booker called for reform of solitary confinement policies at ICE facilities in May when the NBC News report came out.

Tags Cory Booker Dick Durbin ICE Immigration Solitary confinement
See all Hill.TV See all Video