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A broad coalition of immigration, civil and human rights organizations celebrate the reintroduction of the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act by House Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith and Senator Cory Booker. This critical piece of legislation takes necessary policy steps to decrease the use of detention in the U.S. immigration system and address ongoing systemic problems.

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act makes overdue changes to the inhumane immigration detention system, which incarcerates up to 30,000 people per day in county jails and for-profit prisons with a well-documented record of human rights violations. The bill ends the use of private detention to bring the immigration system in alignment with the federal criminal legal system’s prohibition on the use of private prison facilities. The bill also ends the use of family detention and solitary confinement and repeals laws that require “mandatory detention” without providing for a fair day in court. Additionally, to better uplift and assist immigrant communities, the bill creates a community-based support program that provides immigrants with language-appropriate access to services and resources that are cost-effective and ensure immigrants have a fair chance in the immigration court system.

More than 100 organizations have endorsed the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, including the National Immigrant Justice Center, American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Detention Watch Network, Amnesty International USA, Women’s Refugee Commission and Freedom For Immigrants. In 2022 the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act received the support of 129 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and seven U.S. Senators.

Representatives of endorsing organizations shared the following statements:

Nayna Gupta, associate director of policy, National Immigrant Justice Center: “The National Immigrant Justice Center thanks members of Congress for supporting the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act in solidarity with detained immigrants who have been subjected to medical abuse, deplorable conditions, and the abusive and excessive use of solitary confinement while incarcerated in a system where these endemic human rights violations occur everyday with impunity. This legislation takes overdue steps toward an immigration system with greater humanity.”

Hillary Li, policy counsel, Detention Watch Network: “For years, people in detention, their loved ones, and communities have exposed system-wide abuse and negligence in immigration detention, demanding to free people and shut ICE facilities down for good. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act responds to these community calls to address this inhumane, discriminatory, and unnecessary system. Positive changes made by the bill, like ending mandatory detention and eliminating the profit motive that has grown the role of the private prison companies, will significantly reduce the scale of - and our reliance on - ICE detention. We are grateful for the Representatives and Senators leading and supporting this effort.”

Amy Fischer, director of refugee and migrant rights, Amnesty International USA: “Amnesty International USA thanks Representatives Jayapal and Smith and Senator Booker for their continued leadership to address the human rights crisis in the U.S. immigration detention system. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is a critical bill to address the deadly and abusive immigration detention system by imbedding due process into detention decisions to significantly reduce the number of people subject to detention, establishing critical oversight to address the long history of cruel conditions in detention, and investing in community based alternatives to detention for those that need it. Congress must act to restore human rights to our broken immigration system, and the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is a significant start.

Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at Women’s Refugee Commission: “Women’s Refugee Commission is grateful to Representatives Jayapal and Smith and Senator Booker for their leadership in introducing the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act. For too long, Women’s Refugee Commission has documented how current detention practices harm women and others seeking protection and separate them from their families and communities. This important legislation instead prioritizes community-based alternatives for those who need support in successfully navigating their immigration case. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act lays the foundation for a fundamentally different approach to how we treat immigrants, and is critical to an immigration system that centers justice and dignity.”

Jeremy McKinney, president, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA): “AILA welcomes the leadership of Senator Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives Jayapal (D-WA) and Smith (D-WA) who have introduced the ‘Dignity for Detained Immigrants’ legislation.  This important measure wisely shifts the government’s focus away from detention and towards effective and far more humane alternatives, such as case management programs that rely on community-based organizations to provide immigrants with language-appropriate resources so they can better prepare for their immigration cases. This legislation could mean a crucial shift away from the cruel and unnecessary detention of immigrants and toward a better system.”

Maribel Hernández Rivera, deputy national political director, American Civil Liberties Union: “The abuse, medical neglect, and human rights violations endemic to the ICE detention system have been fueled by our nation’s reliance on private prison companies, driven by greed and profit, and by laws that mandate detention. The ACLU is grateful to the lawmakers leading on this bill for fighting for an approach to immigration that replaces greed, cruelty, and impunity with dignity, humanity, and fairness.”