In many cities across the nation, debate around immigration detention has heated up. In Essex County, New Jersey a new detention facility has brought up questions about where our nation’s priorities lie: with people or profits. From the New Jersey Star Ledger:
Detention facilities create moneymaking opportunities for local governments and private firms, but advocates say they’re profiting from a flawed policy of mandatory detention for immigrants who may have only committed civil, not criminal, violations.
“There’s been no discussion that these are people,” said Kathy O’Leary of Pax Christi, a Catholic social justice organization. “There’s been much discussion about the dollars and cents.”
Kathy O’Leary, an active contributor to our Facebook page, has it spot on: any clear conversation around the issue of detention has become seriously compromised by the presence of private interest at the table. Once there is a financial incentive to detain immigrants, and once shareholders demand that this practice become increasingly profitable, there is very little possibility to reexamine the need to detain people who have committed no crime and are therefore no danger to society.
The Obama administration has been detaining and deporting immigrants at record levels and private corrections companies are posting increasing profits in turn. But local governments also seem to be getting a helping hand from the powerless immigrants.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., once called the “Jack Welsh of correctional facilities” for his ability to turn inmates into dollars, said detainees will be a crucial source of revenue as his county wrestles with a tough economy.
“The $250 million we expect to receive over the five-year contract will significantly help reduce the financial burden on our taxpayers,” he said.
Currently, undocumented immigrants are being treated like a commodity and not like human beings with inherent dignity. Without the rights of due process and legal representation, the immigration system in the U.S deems citizenship the pre-requisite for rights, not participation in the human species. In the U.S., a person detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who doesn’t have proof of U.S. citizenship is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. This allows a person to be detained without trial indefinitely, and gives them no legal rights. Any system that denies people their rights based on a non-essential qualification such as race or gender or documentation is by definition discriminatory.
ICE has made repeated claims to be enacting improvements to their detention facilities. This still leaves the underlying question unaddressed. Should undocumented immigrants be held in detention if they do not pose any threat to their local community?
That is why we are tirelessly working on a solution to this problem: Alternatives to Detention. Using both a Risk Assessment Tool and Community Support networks, we believe that immigrants can be released from detention, maintain their dignity, and still maintain a high court-appearance rate at a fraction of the cost. Watch this video for a quick overview:
These alternatives to detention protect the freedoms of the detainees, and treat immigrants with the dignity and respect they deserve. The problem is that such policies cut deeply into the pockets of corporations, so we need you to make the case with us. In a few weeks we will be releasing a report on the use of Alternatives to Detention and we need you to join us in pushing the government to stop the abuse of immigrants who have been trapped in an unforgiving system that thrives on disorder and denial of rights.
If we accept that all people, regardless of nationality, have God given rights, than we need to stand tall against this form of abuse. Stay tuned for our upcoming report and join you voice to those who are calling for an end to these inhumane practices.