The following statement is about the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which is designed to reform the abusive immigration detention system.
Immigrants in detention centers have not been charged with criminal offenses, but they are treated like criminals. Warehousing immigrants – including asylum-seekers who are fleeing violence and persecution in their native countries – in prison-like environments goes against any understanding of human dignity.
Too often, guards use excessive force against detainees, and abusively place them into solitary confinement. Time and again, adequate medical care is denied to detainees, and we have received reports of them being served food with worms, as well as discolored drinking water. Further, particularly in the Deep South, virtually every detainee’s due process rights – including the right to legal representation – are violated.
We started the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) with the goal of providing legal representation to immigrants who have been detained in the Southeast, in part because lives are at risk in these detention centers. Nevertheless, the people we represent should not need to rely on the goodwill of volunteer lawyers indefinitely.
We need to make a fundamental change in the way we treat undocumented immigrants. These reforms should include ending privately run detention centers, introducing basic standards of humane treatment and accountability for violations, and shifting immigration enforcement from detention to alternatives.
The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is an important step toward meaningful comprehensive immigration reform. Congress should pass it.