(WASHINGTON) - American Federation of Government Employees National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118 Vice President Chris Crane testified today before the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, criticizing new proposed changes to the agency’s Detention and Removal Operations, saying that the changes jeopardize staff and ICE detainee safety.
In his testimony Crane said, “We do not believe that the combined efforts of ICE or the Department of Homeland Security have resulted in proposals that will effectively safeguard non-criminal ICE detainees or ICE employees. In fact, we are concerned that these proposed changes could potentially result in heightened risks for some groups of ICE detainees as well as ICE employees and contract guards.”
In its recommendations, DHS and ICE have proposed the construction of multiple new “low-custody” detention facilities, each of which would house 2,000 detainees. In its proposals, the detainees would be allowed to move freely throughout the new facilities. The agency has also proposed new regulations that would ban agents from fully searching visitors or detainees for contraband.
“These proposed changes demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of who is housed in these facilities,” said Crane. “The detainees in these facilities are not wayward boy scouts who lifted a few candy bars from the town drug store. They are serious offenders.” The majority of ICE immigration detainees have been arrested by other law enforcement agencies for crimes ranging from sex offenses, crimes of violence, and drug distribution.
Crane also criticized the agency for not seeking the input of frontline employees or the union in developing proposals that directly affect their safety.
“Perhaps what is most troubling is that these recommendations, which could potentially endanger the lives of our personnel, have been conducted without any employee input,” said Crane. “It is unconscionable that ICE employee’s and their union representatives have been excluded from this process.”