U.S. Overhauling Immigration Detention Policy

Thursday, 06 Aug 2009 08:03 AM

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's administration plans to unveil a program on Thursday that will overhaul the country's controversial immigration detention policy, The New York Times reported.

The newspaper, quoting an administration official, said the plan aimed to establish greater centralized authority over a system that holds about 400,000 immigrant detainees over a year and more direct oversight of detention centers that have been criticized for inadequate medical care.

Details were sketchy and the first steps would take months or years, according to the Times. The program would include reviewing U.S. government contracts with more than 350 local jails and private prisons, with the goal of "consolidating more detainees in places more suitable for noncriminals facing deportation -- some possibly in centers built and run by the government."

The paper said the government would immediately stop sending families to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former state prison in Austin, Texas, which it said was the target of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit and had been criticized for placing children behind razor wire.

"We're trying to move away from 'one size fits all," John Morton, assistant homeland security secretary who heads the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, was quoted as saying.

Detention on a large scale must continue, he said, "but it needs to be done thoughtfully and humanely."

Immigration reform has been a contentious issue in U.S. politics. Congress has failed to pass reforms amid differences over how to deal with about 12 million legal immigrants in the country and demands border security first be address.

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

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