Thursday, August 06, 2009

Time to End the "Nation of Detention" Era

AFSC's immigrant and refugee rights network has consistently sought to challenge the growth of the nation's detention industrial complex, which in the last decade has grown at an unprecedented level. Board members, staff, and community members have worked to draw public attention to the abusive conditions and violations that have occurred in detention centers.

This past June AFSC's Board of Directors issued a statement which in part read, "The increased criminalization of immigrants and non-immigrants -- particularly those who have not been able to adjust their immigration status in the United States is a disturbing trend that does not bode well for a nation committed to the civil rights of every person."

The increased overuse and abuse of detention is a demonstrably failed policy and practice that has led to human rights abuses, caused millions of dollars to taxpayers, and led to the incarceration of men, women and children (e.g., Hutto Detention Center). Little reform has taken place despite several detailed reports pointing to the poor conditions of the “holding” quarters, lack of timely medical attention or humane treatment of detainees, and the deplorable physical conditions found in these detention facilities.

Yet another troubling aspect of the existing detention chaos circle, is the anguish and family hardship caused by the geographic separation of a detainee who is often sent far away from family members, thus making it difficult for them to visit or provide emotional support. Still another challenge is legal representation for someone who has been moved from one state to another.

AFSC’s immigrant and refugee rights work draws on decades of domestic and international human rights work, and the fundamental Quaker core belief that “there is that of God in everyone.” Human migration is a global phenomenon driven by political, social and economic considerations that demand not just our attention, but our humanity and compassion.

The punitive focus on arrest, detention and deportation diverts attention from more compelling human, civil and labor rights issues and from the complex causes of immigration. This punitive focus, in its harsh and capricious application, shatters families and stokes fear in communities; creates incentives for others to profit by the incarceration of others; and shames the nation’s highest ideals of justice and freedom.

AFSC envisions an immigration policy free of imprisonment, a policy that offers humane treatment to asylum seekers, refugees, and economic migrants, and that provides for legal status for undocumented immigrants. AFSC continues to call for the end to this misguided and profoundly unjust policy of detention in our immigration system.

The time is long overdue for the nation's leaders to make fundamental and structural policy changes to current immigration policies, while also doing away with the deplorable detention system, and protecting the basic universal rights and dignity of immigrants and refugees.
LEARN more about the detention issue, visit these websites or contact these organizations:

ACT to end detention and abuse:

1. Contact the White House and urge President Obama to support policies that ensure that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enacts enforceable and humane standards for the treatment of immigrant detainees. Call the White House general switchboard: 202-456-1414 or express your concern contact 202-456-1111 or to send an e-mail message go to:

2. Contact your state's Congressional leaders and urge them to support Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York bills to force DHS to implement legally enforceable rules and policies. Call the Congressional switchboard:

  • To contact your Senator: 202-224-3121
  • To contact your Representative: 202-225-3121