Congress wants answers on immigrant health

May 22, 2008 at 12:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- U.S. lawmakers say they want answers from Department of Homeland Security leaders about reports of inadequate medical care for detained immigrants.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., and others will quiz DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and Julie Myers, assistant secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, about reports of negligence and death among immigrants in ICE custody and improper detention of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, The Washington Post reported.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and the panel's immigration subcommittee chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said they also would conduct hearings.

News outlets reported internal government documents described a "massive crisis in detainee medical

care" in the Division of Immigration Health Services, taken over by ICE last year, the Post said. The documents indicated about 83 immigrants died during the past five years.

Legislation was introduced that would require DHS to establish procedures for timely and effective detainee medical care.

The inquiry comes as the federal government ramped up detention of immigrants, usually held under a penal model even though they often are charged with administrative violations, the Post said. Detainees aren't guaranteed protections extended to criminal defendants.

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