Recently, a wide range of faith, immigrant rights, and community-based organizations joined Detention Watch Network (DWN) to announce the launch of its “Dignity, Not Detention” campaign, calling on Congress to repeal all laws mandating the detention of immigrants.
The campaign marks the 15-year anniversary of the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, legislation that dramatically increased the number of people subject to mandatory detention. The law requires the government to lock up immigrants, including legal permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. their entire lives and asylum seekers seeking refuge in the U.S., without the right to due process.
“Everyone deserves fair and equal treatment under the law, regardless of their immigration status,” said Silky Shah, Field Organizer for DWN. “But for the past 15 years, mandatory detention has denied countless people the right to a fair day in court, tearing apart families and communities across the country, and fueling the expansion of a broken immigration detention system.”
Since 1996, the immigration detention system has grown rapidly, from 70,000 people detained annually to about 400,000. The US now maintains a sprawling network of detention facilities, comprised of more than 250 federal, state and private prisons and county jails, at an annual cost of $1.7 billion to taxpayers. The expansion of the detention system has been accompanied by increasing levels of abuse, ranging from substandard living conditions to over 120 immigrant deaths since 2003.
Detention Watch Network, a national coalition working to reform the immigration detention system, is calling on Congress and the Obama Administration to:
- Repeal all laws mandating the detention of non-citizens.
- Put an end to all policies and programs that use the criminal justice system to target people for detention and deportation.
- Bring the U.S. into compliance with its obligations under international human rights law, which prohibits arbitrary detention.