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Advocates unsatisfied with new immigrant detention center

When a person is accused of being in the country illegally, it can be a very scary ordeal. The person is often in fear of losing his or her family, home and job. What can make matters even worse is when the rights of individuals are not respected when they are facing removal or deportation.

According to immigrant advocacy groups, many immigrant detention centers in the United States fail to comply with federal guidelines and rules about how detainees should be treated.

In response to these allegations, the Obama Administration promised to do something about the problem, with a goal of making immigrant detention centers different from jails or prisons.

One of the leaders of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that the point has never been to punish the immigrants held at the detention centers. Instead, the purpose of the detention centers is to "facilitate removal."

For this reason, ICE said it plans to revamp as many immigrant detention centers as possible. The first remodel is complete and is noticeably different from an ordinary detention center.

A reporter from NPR said that although the facility looks similar to a jail or prison from the outside, the inside is much different with soccer field, gym, pharmacy and guards dressed in polo shirts.

For the most part, detainees will be allowed to roam freely on the premises, the reporter said. However, a group of immigrants' rights advocates who toured the new facility said they were not pleased.

The advocates expressed concern that one of the nation's largest private prison companies won the bid to build the facility. Instead of big, expensive prison-like facilities, ankle bracelets should be used to keep track of low-level detainees, the advocates said.

Source: NPR, "Trying To Make Immigrant Detention Less Like Prison," Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters, March 14, 2012

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