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As House Judiciary Members Hear Testimony on Expansion of ICE Detention, Now is the Time for Congress to Cut Funding for Abusive System

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for September 26, members of Congress will hear testimony from immigrants who have been detained in the abusive U.S. immigration detention system and have the opportunity to question former government officials who have played a role in the rapid expansion of that system.

The National Immigrant Justice Center, Detention Watch Network and Freedom for Immigrants call on members of Congress to use this opportunity to hold U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accountable for the suffering that has occurred in its detention system, and for its mismanagement of billions of taxpayer dollars which are funneled to private prison companies to lock up immigrants. Congress must cut funds for ICE detention and enforcement, reject the racist scapegoating the Trump administration has deployed to fuel more spending on immigration prisons, and stop the cruel abuses that witnesses are expected to detail in their testimonies tomorrow.

Immediately following the hearing Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Representative Adam Smith (WA-09) will be joined by members of Congress for a press conference to discuss H.R. 2415, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, as a bold step toward the transformative change the current situation demands. While this bill does not fully end the inhumane and unnecessary system of immigration detention, it seeks to end mandatory detention and privatized detention, and to enact critical safeguards to reverse the trend of constant, unchecked growth.

The National Immigrant Justice Center, Detention Watch Network and Freedom for Immigrants, members of the Defund Hate Coalition, issued the following statements in advance of the hearing:

Heidi Altman, director of policy, National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), who is scheduled to testify at the hearing:

“For more than three decades, NIJC has provided legal services to immigrants who are detained by the U.S. government while they pursue their claims for protection. We’ve observed systemic abuses and oversight failures though the experiences of our clients and our own investigative research and we’ve arrived at one clear conclusion: the U.S. government must end its use of immigration detention.”

Silky Shah, executive director, Detention Watch Network (DWN):

“ICE’s budget continues to grow and yet, people are still dying in ICE custody. That should tell you that the problem isn’t the need for better conditions, the problem is the agency itself and the detention system it operates. The shocking growth of the detention system where endemic issues such as fatal medical neglect and abuse run rampant is appalling and a stain on this country’s collective conscience. The evidence is long-standing and overwhelming, we must abolish immigration detention.”

Sarah Gardiner, policy director at Freedom for Immigrants (FFI):

"Not only is immigration detention costly and inhumane, it is also completely unnecessary. Congress needs to push for increased oversight for existing ICE facilities while simultaneously supporting solutions that keep families together via community-based alternatives to detention. Proven alternatives to detention exist. It is time for Congress to support them.”


The National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention.

Freedom for Immigrants is a non-profit monitoring the human rights abuses faced by immigrants detained by ICE through a national hotline, network of volunteer detention visitors, and modeling a community-based alternative to detention that welcomes immigrants into the social fabric of the United States.