Today, I’d like to introduce a guest post by Rosalynd Erney, LIRS Advocacy Fellow and Lutheran Volunteer Corps member.
“My husband and I spent our first anniversary separated by a glass wall,” shouted Hope Mustakim into the megaphone as her husband and infant son stood beside her. “It’s time to end this quota.”
Too many families like Hope’s are separated every day because of the detention bed quota. This quota comes from a Congressional mandate requiring the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain 34,000 detention beds for migrants in jails or jail-like settings every day.
Last week, along with my fellow Lutheran Volunteer Corps members Julia Coffin and Chelsea Allison, I had the privilege of participating in Detention Watch Network’s annual conference. The conference brought together more than 150 leaders from around the country, ranging from grassroots organizers to civil rights attorneys to individuals, like Hope and her family, whose lives had been disrupted by unnecessary detention, all with the combined vision of a world without immigrant detention. As part of the conference, we and other conference participants rallied on the National Mall and marched to the White House, calling on Congress and President Obama to use their authority to end the bed quota.
It can be all too easy to get caught up in the numbers and statistics my colleagues and I hear every day—like the fact that in Fiscal Year 2012 ICE detained 478,000 immigrants, the highest number in U.S. history—and forget about the human side of the equation. This number translates into almost half a million people separated from their communities and the people they love. These are families who don’t get to eat dinner together at night, children who don’t get to have Mom or Dad tuck them in or take them to school in the morning, and parents who suddenly find themselves as the sole providers for their families.
There are alternatives to the current situation. Community-based alternatives to detention allow individuals to stay with their families as they fight their immigration court cases, give individuals greater access to legal representation and have been shown to be effective at ensuring compliance with immigration court proceedings.
As we marched down Pennsylvania Avenue last week, surrounded by passionate advocates and supporters chanting and carrying pictures of their detained loved ones, I was reminded that we cannot do this work alone. We must continue to work together to ensure that Congress and President Obama truly feel pressure to act to reform our broken immigration system this year.
Take a look at our photos from the rally here.
Please consider taking a moment to call your representatives through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell them that you stand for an end to the bed quota. You can also use LIRS’ Action Center to urge President Obama to exercise his authority to keep families together and end excessive detention and deportation.