Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently revised its standards for how detained immigrants are treated.
For the first time since 2008, ICE has announced it will improve medical and mental health services to immigrants who are in detention or in the process of being deported out of the country.
The agency says it will also increase immigrants’ access to legal services and streamline the processing of complaints.
Keeping an immigrant in detention is expensive, costing taxpayers an average of $160 a day, and critics of the revised guidelines say these changes will make that cost even higher.
But Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard says ICE’s changes are in line with the bill she introduced three years ago: the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act.
She says a distinction should be made between criminal aliens in prison and most unauthorized immigrants in detention.
“You have to put a human face on those who come here out of desperation and out of need to provide for a better life," says Roybal-Allard. "They’re not the same group of people who rightfully we want to incarcerate and send back to their country. And those would be the hardened criminals, the felons, which the Obama administration is in fact targeting.”
Roybal-Allard says her bill would provide special protection for immigrant children in detention, whose cases she hears about regularly from constituents.