- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Homeland Security tapped an ombudsman to monitor how the department detains immigrants, following through on an order from Congress last year to create the position amid a number of complaints about detainee treatment.

Luke Bellocchi, the new ombudsman, previously served as deputy ombudsman for the department’s legal immigration agency and as congressional liaison at its border agency. He also holds both a master’s degree in business administration and a law degree.

Congress set up the new position to receive complaints about how immigrants are treated in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the two immigration law enforcement divisions.

He is authorized to make unannounced visits to detention facilities, including those run by private companies under contract with ICE.

Mr. Bellocchi comes on board just as ICE is facing a whistleblower complaint of unnecessary surgeries, including hysterectomies, at a contract detention center in Georgia. The department says early indications are that the whistleblower was wrong, but the investigation is ongoing.

ICE has also faced numerous lawsuits over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic within its facilities, while CBP is under court orders to improve conditions at its border holding facilities.

Under the 2019 law passed by Congress, the ombudsman reports directly to the department’s chief, in this case acting Secretary Chad Wolf.

Luke’s experience in both the public sector and the federal government has positioned him well for this new role at DHS, and I look forward to working with Luke to stand-up this new office,” Mr. Wolf said.

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