Government Lax in Monitoring Medical Care
October 3, 2007
There are nearly 30,000 immigrants detained in hundreds of prisons and jails throughout the United States. The US government has no idea how many of these immigrants have HIV/AIDS, how many need treatment, and how many are receiving care.
Megan McLemore, HIV/AIDS Program, Human Rights Watch

The United States government should increase executive and legislative branch oversight of medical care for immigrants in detention. Human Rights Watch urges Subcommittee members to hold the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accountable for its failure to ensure uniform medical care standards that comply with national and international guidelines and for its incomplete monitoring and oversight of detention facilities.

"There are nearly 30,000 immigrants detained in hundreds of prisons and jails throughout the United States," said Megan McLemore of Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS Program. "The US government has no idea how many of these immigrants have HIV/AIDS, how many need treatment, and how many are receiving care."

The House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law is investigating the medical care provided to detained immigrants in light of recent deaths in California, Rhode Island and Texas. In a 10-page submission, Human Rights Watch urged Subcommittee members to hold the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accountable for its failure to ensure uniform medical care standards that comply with national and international guidelines, and for its incomplete monitoring and oversight of detention facilities.

"Detainees in different types of facilities are subject to different medical care standards," said McLemore. "And even the most basic standards are completely voluntary because DHS refuses to issue them as formal regulations. The result of DHS’s failure can not be considered unexpected – immigrants are getting poor care, are suffering, and, in some cases, have died. Congress must insist that it act now."

Human Rights Watch said increased federal oversight is required in order to ensure that the DHS meets its obligations under US and international law to provide adequate medical care to detained immigrants.