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To mark the 15-year anniversary of the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, a coalition of faith, immigrant rights, and community-based organizations joined Detention Watch Network (DWN) today to announce the launch of a new “Dignity, Not Detention” campaign:
The coalition is calling on Congress to repeal all laws mandating the detention of immigrants. Since IIRIRA passed, there has been a dramatic increase in number of people subject to mandatory detention. The law requires the government to lock up immigrants—including legal permanent residents and asylum seekers—without the right to due process.
As Silky Shah, Field Organizer for DWN, explained in a press release:
Everyone deserves fair and equal treatment under the law, regardless of their immigration status. 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.
For the past six months, newlyweds Hope and Nazry Mustakim have suffered under the reality of IIRIRA. Nazry is a 31-year-old legal permanent resident from Singapore who was detained by ICE in March for a felony drug possession from five years ago. Even though he has been sober since then and has changed his life around completely, Mustakim’s drug possession charge makes him subject to mandatory detention under IIRIRA, and he has been in a Texas detention center ever since.
Said Hope Mustakim:
My husband has been clean and sober for 5 years now and has dedicated his life to helping others recover from addiction. We were only married for 8 months before he was taken away from me. Now I only see him twice a month through the pane glass at the detention center, which is a 260 mile drive from my home. The emotional and financial cost of our separation has been devastating, and it saddens me to know that this is happening to other families caught up in the detention system across the country.
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.
Through its “Dignity, Not Detention campaign”, Detention Watch Network 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.