As President Obama, left, works on pushing immigration reform, pro-immigration advocates were not happy after reports surfaced that ICE was putting detained immigrants in solitary confinement. Meanwhile, some advocates praised GOP Sen. Rand Paul, right, for his recent statements showing flexibility on immigration reform. (Photo : Reuters)
The advocates for fixing the nation's immigration laws have once again found themselves in the position where they support President Obama's push for immigration reform, but are blasting Immigration and Customs Enforcement's treatment of detained immigrants that have taken place under his administration.
President Obama continued to push for immigration reform Monday during a naturalization ceremony at the White House amid talks that negotiations on a bipartisan bill that would put millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. on a path to citizenship while strengthening the nation's borders.
However, amid that, the New York Times reported Sunday that roughly 300 people being held in 50 civil immigration holding facilities around the nation were being placed in solitary confinement and could be placed there on any given day.
The Times reported that immigrants being transferred into solitary confinement were often moved there due to disciplinary infractions such as fights, breaking rules or mouthing off to guards. Other times, immigrants who were gay or mentally ill were moved into isolated confines for their own protection.
Chris Daley, deputy executive director of human rights group Just Detention International, told the Huffington Post that the Times report concerned him as his organization is focused on how solitary confinement can lead to unsafe situations such as sexual abuse.
"We should never shy away from highlighting human rights abuses that any administration is committing," Daley said. "Doing that does not negate continuing to advocate with that administration for reforms in other areas."
Already, the Obama administration has taken heat with immigration advocates due to the record number of deportations that took place under the administration's first term.
"It's just a complicated field in this political moment," Arturo Carmona, executive director of grassroots advocacy group Presente.org, told the Post. "We just have to be able to maneuver our advocacy efforts in a way where we're working both critically, but at the same time ensuring that the process is moving forward."
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a key member of the "Gang of Eight" bipartisan panel working on an immigration bill, has written a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking for more information on the agency's solitary confinement procedures.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that ICE would be reviewing their policies regarding solitary confinement, and she asked the agency to give her information on specific cases referenced in the Times article.
Meanwhile, the GOP has struggled to gain trust from Latino and immigrant voters on the immigration front for years.
However, recent comments from U.S Sen. Rand Paul last week, during which he said undocumented immigrants should be allowed some form of legal status, have drawn praise from some immigration advocates.
"What came to my mind was reason has taken over insanity," Albert Mbanfu, director of the International Center of Bowling Green and Owensboro said according to GOPUSA.com.
Paul, a Tea Party member, notably sidestepped stating that he was in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but did state that those immigrants should be allowed to live and work in the U.S. under some form of probationary legal status.
Judy Schwank, an immigration attorney based in Bowling Green, said that while Paul's comments weren't likely to make a difference regarding the Republican Party's internal debate on the immigration issue, it indicated that Republicans may be ready to start compromising on the matter.
With Hispanics growing in the U.S., Schwank noted, the survival of the GOP depended on their ability to reach out to this growing electorate.
"Most people do not realize how much these people [immigrants] are contributing to society," she said.