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US Bishops Call For Dismantling, Reforming Immigrant Detention System

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Yesterday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called for dismantling and reforming the federal government’s gargantuan immigrant detention system.

From the AP:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a sobering report that tens of thousands of immigrants are housed in prison-like conditions that cause psychological harm and are inhumane and ineffective. That includes a large number of moms and little kids, because of a growth in family detention after last summer’s spike in migration from Central America.

More and more detention facilities are operated by for-profit corporations that perpetuate an immoral system to please shareholders at the expense of taxpayers, the bishops said.

They detailed disturbing conditions that are especially traumatic for kids, including sexual abuse and lack of medical treatment and due process, and said the entire system should be dismantled and replaced with alternatives to detention.

“From a moral standpoint this is unacceptable,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration. “The current practice of family detention must end. As a nation we must do better.”

The bishops widely expect Pope Francis to address immigration reform and immigrant detention when he speaks before a joint session of Congress later this year.

Pope Francis has spoken out repeatedly about the humanity, dignity, and rights of immigrants and refugees, saying in 2013:

“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity.  They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all, for being more.”

Earlier that year, the Pope tweeted: “We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants.  God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy.”

In 2014, nine bishops from the USCCB traveled to Nogales and held a special mass at the U.S./Mexico border fence in remembrance of the thousands of migrants who have lost their lives in the desert.

Just yesterday, immigration reporter Esther Lee published a devastating piece about a migrant mother and child who have been detained for 11 months at a facility in Karnes City, Texas:

Karen and Yoana’s extended stay isn’t new among immigrant detainees at Karnes. Between October 2013 and September 2014, more than 68,541 unaccompanied migrant children as well as 68,445 family units comprised of migrant women and their children entered the country through the southern border. In response, the Obama administration took an “aggressive deterrence strategy” that aims to deter would-be migrant border crossers by holding those who have already crossed in detention without the option to pay bond.


Over the past year, family detention centers became the subject of intense scrutiny by immigrant advocates who accuse officials of mistreating immigrants. Migrant women have twice gone on hunger strikes at Karnes to protest medical conditions and the lack of appropriate food. Because Karnes County, Texas sits on one of the most active drilling sitesused for fracking, the water at the detention center has to be heavily chlorinated, which often causes stomach issues for detainees. The food provided was previously described as “inedible” by other detention center visitors.

“It is time for our nation to reform this inhumane system, which unnecessarily detains persons, especially vulnerable populations, who are no threat to us and who should be afforded due process and legal protections,” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chair of the USCCB, said in a statement to Fox News Latino.