Calling for the end of private immigration detention facilities
No one should be punished for seeking safety or for trying to stay with their family in the country they call home.
But every day, people are unjustly detained by ICE in abusive, deadly conditions and deported back to danger. Others at the border are blocked from exercising their right to seek asylum and sent back in harm’s way.
ICE is currently holding over 23,000 immigrants and asylum seekers. We’ve documented long-standing problems in the immigration detention system. These abuses were exacerbated by a rapid expansion of detention under former President Donald Trump.
We need to pressure lawmakers to make liberty—not arbitrary detention—the default approach. Together we can dismantle the U.S. system of mass detention of immigrants in abusive conditions.
Racism & Transphobia in Current Immigration Policies
There is a long pattern of abuses against migrants, including cruelty and racism that have shaped immigration policies for years. Black, Indigenous, and Brown people bear the brunt of harsh, punitive immigration policies and practices.
These policies continue to harm and oppress millions of people today. The U.S. is needlessly and brutally detaining people like Maura Martinez, a transgender woman from Nicaragua seeking protection in the U.S. She’s being held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in California, where trans people have been denied medical treatment, subjected to physical and sexual violence, and placed in housing that does not accord to their gender identity. Maura and countless others are stuck inside a system built on cruelty and needless detention.
Immigrants and asylum-seekers should be allowed to navigate their immigration cases in freedom and in community, where they have family and the support of sponsors and community-based nonprofits.
Congress can Free People and Save Asylum
There is a solution to this crisis – we have proposed pathways to permanent legislative change. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act and Freedom for Families Act are ready and waiting for lawmakers to act. In the meantime, President Biden has the ability to immediately create a system to review the case of each person currently held in ICE detention.
In line with U.S. human rights obligations, the process should start with a presumption that immigrants should not be detained. The current administration is responsible for the safety of people in its custody, and they are failing. Tens of thousands of lives are at stake.
Congress spends tens of billions of dollars to fuel the deportation machine. This taxpayer money is used to lock people up, build former President Trump’s lethal border wall, and expand systems that surveil and criminalize communities of color.
At the beginning of this decade, more than eighty percent of people detained in ICE custody were held in facilities owned or managed by private prison corporations. These prisons, local jails, and other incarceration facilities holding immigrants have been linked to human rights violations including unsafe and unsanitary conditions, assault, negligent medical care, excessive use of solitary confinement, and other abuses.
The best way to protect the health and other rights of the thousands of people needlessly detained is to release them.
The existing enforcement infrastructure will always be a structural barrier to positively transforming the immigration system. The recommendations we outline below illustrate a vision for reprioritizing resources to create a more supportive landscape for an immigration system that welcomes immigrants, respects their human rights, and honors their dignity.