Commentary: Oversight needed for immigration jails

Documented cases of neglect and abuse at the country's network of federal immigration detention centers led the Obama administration to announce an overhaul of the system last year.

New evidence suggests that reforms will be for naught if the system itself remains shrouded in secrecy.

Media organizations and civil-rights groups fought for years to expose the deaths of immigrants in detention centers. In doing so, they uncovered examples of grossly inadequate medical care.

A 2008 Washington Post investigation tracked 83 immigration detainee deaths and concluded that 30 of them — including one at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma — might have been caused by the actions, or inaction, of medical staff.

Now The New York Times has dug up government documents that show how immigration officials worked to cover up evidence of mistreatment and thwart outside scrutiny.

In some cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have outright lied. The most egregious case was in 2007, when an ICE spokesman told The Times that he needed a full name and alien registration number before he could obtain information about a New Jersey detainee.

Records show that spokesman had already filed a report that warned managers of the reporter's interest and shared information about the detainee, a Guinean man who had suffered a skull fracture behind bars.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Tacoma) News Tribune.