House Hearing Examines Immigrant Care at Detention Facilities
Efforts to improve medical care for immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement must improve, witnesses and lawmakers said on Tuesday during a House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing, CQ HealthBeat reports. Last year, a Washington Post series examined the lack of medical care for some immigrants detained at ICE facilities. Alicia Puente Cackley, director of health care for the Government Accountability Office, said that a report recently released by the office found variations in medical care provided at ICE facilities and the lack of a standardized system for maintenance of health records at the facilities.
According to Jose Rodriguez, director of the ICE Division of Immigration Health Services, national detention standards require immigrants within 12 hours of detention to receive a medical assessment that includes a health questionnaire, a dental evaluation, a tuberculosis skin test and a pregnancy test for women ages 10 to 55. Rodriguez added that immigrants detained for at least two weeks must receive a more comprehensive medical assessment that includes a detailed history and a complete physical examination.
He also said that DIHS has begun to evaluate several electronic health record systems. James Hayes, director of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations, acknowledged the need for improvement and indicated support for unannounced evaluations of ICE facilities. However, he added that the mortality rate for immigrants detained at ICE facilities decreased from 10.8 deaths per 100,000 detainees in 2004 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 detainees in 2008. Hayes said, "Given the generally poor health of detainees who enter ICE custody, the comparatively low death rate among ICE detainees provides evidence of the extraordinary measures ICE takes to prevent the death of any ICE detainee in our care" (Attias, CQ HealthBeat, 3/4).