The use of detention has expanded drastically in recent years as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has escalated its immigration enforcement efforts. While some immigrants may pose public safety or flight risks, DHS detains many others without proper screenings to justify their incarceration. American taxpayers foot the significant bill for these unnecessary detentions. To learn more, click here.
Immigrants in detention include thousands who enter the United States in search of meaningful employment, family reunification or protection. Among those detained are asylum seekers, victims of torture and trafficking, families with young children, pregnant women, and the elderly and infirm.
DHS holds immigrants in hundreds of facilities across the country, including government centers, privately run detention institutions and state and county jails. While conditions vary among facilities, problems include
- insufficient oversight,
- lack of enforceable standards,
- inadequate medical care and
- limited access to legal counsel.
Human rights principles dictate that physical detention should be used as a last resort only. Programs that provide alternatives to detention allow families to remain together. Alternative programs include release on recognizance, parole or bond. These options are highly effective, more humane and less costly.
A number of members of Congress have introduced bills to reform the immigration detention system. Representative Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Senator Menendez (D-NJ) have introduced the most comprehensive detention bills, H.R. 1215, S. 1549 and S. 1550, which would do the following:
- Reduce the reliance use of immigration detention for vulnerable populations who pose no risk to the community.
- Establish clear standards and criteria for releasing protected classes of immigrants from detention.
- Expand the use of bond, parole and programs that are more cost-effective, fair and humane than detention.
- Ensure enforceable standards for detention facilities used to lock up immigrants.