Legally Enforceable Detention Standards and Comprehensive Immigration Reform Desperately Needed
Two stories, Documents Reveal Earlier Immigrant Deaths and Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail, that ran recently in the New York Times illustrate in devastating detail, once again, the extent of our broken immigration system.
The stories chronicled the deadly consequences of jailing undocumented immigrants in a haphazard detention system that has little accountability and even less effectiveness: immigrants dying unnecessarily because they were denied medical care, deprived of their civil rights and human rights while waiting to be deported. Unfortunately these incidents have become an all too familiar occurrence in federal detention centers and city and county jails around the country. To make matters worse, officials in the Bush Administration’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sought to shield these abuses from media and public scrutiny.
Surely these practices cannot be allowed to stand. Surely the Obama Administration must recognize that legally enforceable detention standards are needed to make officials accountable for the treatment of the more than 300,000 people they detain each year. And surely Congress can come up with a better way to deal with the challenge of illegal immigration than to operate as if detention and deportation alone will solve the problem.
“Letting people die alone, in unbearable pain, with cracked skulls on cold prison cell floors, without needed dialysis, cancer treatment or other medical care, offends our most basic ideals and our most cherished values,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “Normally stories like these are about distant lands where dictatorial regimes and disregard for human rights are much too common. Sadly, these stories are about America today, and some officials who are still in their positions of authority.”
He added, “The simple fact is that we are overtaxing the nation’s detention capacity to lock up undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom are non-violent. Can’t we do better? Isn’t there a better way to deal with illegal immigration than lock up hundreds of thousands of immigrants whose only crime was entering the country without proper authorization papers in search of work and better lives?”
“Yes, there is a better way. It is time for Congress to step up and enact comprehensive immigration reform – along with legally enforceable standards regarding the treatment of immigrants in detention. Comprehensive reform will make sure that our borders are secure, illegal hiring is punished, and there are lines to get into for undocumented workers already here and for needed workers admitted in the future. Such a functioning, orderly and controlled immigration system will significantly reduce illegal immigration, lift wages and working conditions for all workers, help taxpayers and employers undercut by those who violate tax, labor and immigration laws, and obviate the need for the sprawling and out-of-control detention system currently in place.”
“Let’s be very clear: America’s Voice supports enforcement policies that work. But without comprehensive immigration reform our current enforcement strategies are mostly doomed to failure and at times susceptible to the kinds of abuses and impunity exposed by the New York Times. It’s time for Congress to step up. It’s time to fashion a solution that – unlike our current approach – is both effective but humane.”