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New rules still don't cover immigrants

Posted: May 18, 2012 | Tags: immigration

A zero-tolerance policy and a set of new rules to protect against sexual assault and rape in prisons nationwide were announced Thursday by the Justice Department. The new rules come nearly a decade after Congress mandated new rape protections for those behind bars under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003. But the new regulations won't immediately impact the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration detention centers, as it still has 120 days to write its own rules to comply with PREA and another 240 days to finalize them.

The Investigative Reporting Workshop and PBS FRONTLINE documented more than 170 complaints of sexual abuse in immigrant detention centers in “Lost in Detention,” a documentary that aired last fall. The new regulations include more screening, training and education of prison personnel; the development of policies to protect against retaliation for reporting of abuse; and discipline, including termination, for sexual abuse. Also, agencies must attempt to make a victim advocate from a rape crisis center available.

The ACLU’s Joanne Lin, legislative counsel, said in a statement: “By tasking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to promulgate its own PREA regulations, the administration has further delayed and left unclear whether hundreds of thousands of immigration detainees — overwhelmingly Latinos — who are annually confined in DHS detention facilities will receive adequate protection.”

DHS spokesperson Peter Boogaard said, "These regulations will build upon the substantial improvements we have made to agency policy and procedures to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse in immigration detention."




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