Report Describes Concerns Over Treatment of Detained Women Immigrants

By Rachel Walden — January 21, 2009

A report released this month by Southwest Institute of Research on Women and the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona expresses concerns about the treatment of women held in immigration detention centers in Arizona.

The report, “Unseen Prisoners” (PDF), describes conditions in three Arizona facilities. The information was obtained through interviews conducted with women currently and formerly detained in the facilities and attorneys and social service providers “who have worked closely with women detainees in the state.”

Delays in receiving medical care, inadequate care, and lack of attention to mental health issues are among the problems described. The allegations include denial of a breast pump to a lactating woman who was separated from her infant, refusal to provide prenatal vitamins, a woman with cervical cancer waiting several months to see a nurse, and a woman who had undergone female genital mutilation and was experiencing severe abdominal pain being told that she should “exercise and watch her diet” — when the real culprit was large cyst needing surgical removal.

According to an article in the New York Times on the report, “Katrina S. Kane, who directs Arizona detention and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, dismissed the study as unsubstantiated accounts from a limited number of detainees and their advocates.”

She also claimed that the allegation that detainee had not received treatment for cervical cancer was false. An immigration lawyer involved in the study “countered that interviews with detainees, former detainees and their lawyers corroborated a pattern of endemic mistreatment,” according to the Times.

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