(Los Angeles, October 4, 2002)
In a nine-page letter to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials, Human Rights Watch commended officials for progress made at a major INS detention center in San Pedro to improve detainee living conditions and treatment, but also noted areas where improvements are still required.
Representatives of Human Rights Watch have visited the San Pedro Service Processing Center in Los Angeles five times during the past three years in an effort to determine whether detainees were being treated in a humane manner. The group has interviewed and corresponded with INS officials and dozens of detainees.
"We applaud the improvements at San Pedro SPC over the last three years. But officials must address the remaining issues of concern to ensure safe and humane living conditions for immigration detainees held there."
Associate Director, U.S. Program
"We applaud the improvements at San Pedro SPC over the last three years," said Allyson Collins, associate director of the U.S. program. "But officials must address the remaining issues of concern to ensure safe and humane living conditions for immigration detainees held there."
During the course of Human Rights Watch's inspections, several improvements were observed. Perhaps most significantly, the problem of overcrowding - which was acute in 1999 - appears to have been alleviated. Officials also planned to improve detainee access to medical care; enhance communication with deportation officers; translate the detainee handbook and orientation films into additional languages; provide required legal materials; fully inform detainees about how the grievance procedure works; and track the investigation and outcome of complaints.
However, there are areas where progress is still needed. Detainees are particularly concerned about the verbal, and sometimes physical, abuses they suffer at the hands of correctional officers at the facility, with contract guards from Lyons Security Services who work at San Pedro singled out by detainees as particularly unprofessional. Some detainees also told Human Rights Watch that they fear retaliatory action if they pursue a complaint against a guard.
Detainees also continue to be confused about the status of their cases and how long they might expect to be detained, because the INS does not provide them with adequate information. Many have trouble obtaining an attorney or legal advice.
To read Human Rights Watch's letter to INS officials, please see: http://hrw.org/press/2002/10/san-ltr0906.htm