DHS Finally Addresses Rape in Detention Facilities

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This week, the Department of Homeland Security released long-awaited draft regulations that detail the agency’s plan to satisfy the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). PREA, the first legislation that intended to create a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse and assault in all confinement facilities, passed unanimously in Congress in 2003. Enactment and implementation of the regulations has been repeatedly delayed. When the Justice Department (DOJ) issued its draft regulations in June 2010, immigration detention was specifically excluded on the basis that DOJ regulations could not apply to the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) or Health and Human Services (HHS) in whose jurisdiction immigrants are confined.

In May 2012, the White House issued final DOJ regulations and, in a memo, required that all other federal agencies that confine and detain draft their own PREA regulations.

“Though it has taken enormous amounts of time and advocacy to reach this place, these regulations are a critical step for creating real safeguards to protect immigrants in detention,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice Program. “Immigrants in detention, who often do not speak English, are facing deportation and have little access to lawyers, deserve the same protections as everyone who is in confinement in the United States.”

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