WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is expected on Tuesday to unveil an outline of sweeping changes for the nation's immigration-detention system,
saying it will decide whom to lock up and for how long based on the danger and flight risk posed by detainees.
Officials familiar with the report said the administration is pledging to revise detention standards and will turn to the private sector for ideas,
asking for proposals to construct two model facilities.
Until now, the Obama administration has been reluctant to revise detention standards, which were updated late in the administration of former
President George W. Bush. The immigration detention system expanded dramatically during the Bush years as the government took a much tougher line
against illegal immigrants.
The moves come in response to criticisms of the system over issues including the quality of medical treatment given to detainees and their inability
to access basic services, such as phones to speak with lawyers. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said upon taking office that she would
undertake a review of the process.
Ms. Napolitano is expected to announce the moves at a news conference. The officials familiar with Tuesday's announcement said Ms. Napolitano, who
has oversight of the immigration detention network through the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, will also announce plans to develop a new
classification system for detainees.
Currently, asylum seekers or other detainees who don't pose a danger can be housed with regular criminals in the U.S. prison system. The goal of the
new classification system, officials said, is to avoid mixing criminal and noncriminal detainees.
The Obama administration also will pledge to put in place a screening system to alert officials to special medical or mental-health needs of detainees
as they enter detention.
Tuesday's report includes a promise to issue guidelines on alternatives to detaining immigration violators.
The announcement is expected to be criticized as a softening of immigration policy by some Republicans and others who have taken a hard line on
illegal immigration. It follows a promise from Obama administration officials in August to alter the detention network.
Officials on Tuesday are expected to announce that they will further centralize and increase oversight of the network, which houses about 32,000 beds
at 350 local jails, prisons or private corrections facilities nationwide. Almost 400,000 people cycle through the system each year.
In August, John Morton, the assistant secretary for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, said he would put a government manager inside each of the
nation's largest 23 detention facilities to increase and enhance direct federal oversight. The agency is expected to announce that it is doubling the
effort, meaning government managers, instead of contractors, will oversee facilities housing 80% of the nation's immigration detainees.
Mr. Morton said in August that the main goal of his overhaul was to make the system less reliant on using prison-like facilities to hold the hundreds
of thousands of immigration detainees who pass through the system each year who aren't criminal offenders.
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