Echoes NIJC’s Call for Increased Transparency in the Immigration Detention System
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) welcomes efforts by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) to demand government accountability and end the over-incarceration of immigrants and other people of color in the United States.
The immigration detention provisions in Sen. Sanders’ Justice is Not for Sale Act and the companion bill in the House of Representatives, both introduced today, would eliminate the immigration detention bed quota, expand the use of alternatives to detention (ATDs), and enhance facility oversight and accountability, including a provision which would require that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) publicly release all immigration detention contracts and facility inspections. NIJC highlighted the need for improved oversight in the immigration detention contracting process in its Immigration Detention Transparency and Human Rights Project August 2015 Report.
“The U.S. justice system is too dependent on a system of incarceration that treats people like inventory, destroys families and communities, and deprives immigrants and other vulnerable populations of basic due process rights,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “NIJC is grateful for the congressmen’s support to hold the government accountable and end these abuses.”
Congressional appropriations currently require that ICE maintain a quota of 34,000 immigration detention beds. The pressure to fill those beds can have a profound impact on ICE custody decisions, urging officers to detain individuals even when individualized assessments would determine that detention is not necessary. Reducing the use of detention by prioritizing release and using ATDs when possible could save taxpayers $1.44 billion annually and allow immigrants to live with their families and have better access to lawyers while they await their immigration hearings.
NIJC’s Immigration Detention Transparency and Human Rights Project analyzed 90 immigration detention center contracts obtained through three years of Freedom of Information Act litigation, and in October will release inspections reports for about 100 facilities. The contracts provide an unprecedented look into a failed system that lacks accountability, shields ICE from public scrutiny, and allows local governments and private prison companies to brazenly maximize profits at the expense of basic human rights.