Today, 114 immigrant and human rights groups delivered a letter to the White House urging the Biden administration to immediately close Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, prevent the development of new detention sites or expansion of existing ones, and cut funding for immigration detention from Congress. The midterm elections made clear how millions of people are coming together to reject attempts to divide us based on what we look like, where we come from, or where we live. As the administration stands up processing of individuals following the long-awaited court ruling lifting the Title 42 public health expulsion order, it also has a moral mandate to advance an agenda of humanity and dignity, by acting urgently to scale back the immigration detention system.
As Biden embarks on the second half of his term, the signatories — including Detention Watch Network, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), The Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Freedom for Immigrants, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union — are deeply disappointed that Biden failed to keep his promises to immigrant communities. Rather, in just two years, the Biden administration has doubled the number of people in detention to nearly 30,000 and quadrupled the number of people surveilled by ICE’s enforcement-based monitoring programs. This is unacceptable. In the letter, advocates highlight how the immigration detention system as a whole is unnecessary, rife with systemic abuses and completely arbitrary. For example, Black people in immigrant detention suffer particular mistreatment–they are more likely to suffer prolonged periods of detention and are less likely to be released on bond or parole than non-Black people.
Setareh Ghandehari, advocacy director at Detention Watch Network, said:
“Biden positioned himself as a clear counterpoint to Trump’s cruelty but instead, Biden is carrying on business as usual, breaking promises and tearing apart communities. It is urgent for Biden to act boldly to rebuke white supremacy by protecting and welcoming immigrants in the next two years of his administration. Detention is inhumane, morally and financially costly, and completely unnecessary. Detention Watch Network remains steadfast in our demand to end the use of immigration detention in its entirety.”
Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center, said:
“NIJC regularly files civil rights complaints on behalf of our clients who endure solitary confinement, medical negligence, and blatant harassment and abuse in ICE detention on a daily basis. The Biden administration can no longer continue to blindly operate a system that is inherently cruel. The time to act is now.”
Sirine Shebaya, executive director at the National Immigration Project, said:
“Immigration detention continues to be inhumane and abusive. People navigating their immigration cases should be able to do so alongside their families and communities — not behind bars or while being surveilled by ICE, an agency with a record of abuse and mistreatment. We call on the Biden administration to take immediate steps to end this costly and dangerous system.”
Andrea Carcamo, policy director at Freedom for Immigrants, said:
“Immigration detention is animated by racism, xenophobia, and hate—the very forces President Biden vowed to fight against upon taking the White House. Instead, Biden has overseen a dramatic increase in the use of immigration detention since taking office. This administration has utterly failed our communities who continue to be subject to abhorrent human rights abuses inside detention. It’s clear that immigration detention is beyond the reach of reform, which is why we demand Biden close detention centers and free people back to the love and safety of their communities.”
Read the letter here.