WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, transformative legislation that targets the inhumane conditions of detention centers and protects the civil and human rights of immigrants. The bill would urgently end the use of private prisons and county jails to detain immigrants, set humane standards for detention facilities, increase oversight of these facilities to eliminate abuse, and better protect the civil rights of immigrant detainees. U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the legislation in the House earlier this year.

Senator Booker also sent a letter today to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, urging the federal agency to take bold action to fix our broken immigration detention system.

The bill and the letter come after years of failed inhumane immigration laws and policies. In the past 25 years alone, our immigration detention system has exploded in size. For instance, in 1994, the average daily population of individuals in detention centers was 6,785, and by 2019, the daily average number rose to 50,165. Additionally, immigrants' treatment within the detention centers has been appalling. From the excessive use solitary confinement to the insufficient availability of drinkable water, there have been a plethora of abuses.

 

“During the Trump Administration, we watched in horror as our immigration detention system was used to dehumanize and harm those seeking asylum in the United States. As we work to fix this broken system, we must ensure that how we treat immigrants who come to our nation to seek refuge reflects our American values,” said Senator Booker. “Our bill will protect the civil rights of immigrant detainees so that they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

 

“Ending the unjust treatment of immigrants and the inhumane conditions that they are subjected to is going to take far more than removing Donald Trump, it will take removing America’s for-profit detention system altogether,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act ends the use of private detention facilities, repeals mandatory detention, promotes community-based alternatives, and restores due process while transforming the entire system so immigrants finally have their human rights and wellbeing protected.”

 

“Immigrants make our country stronger in countless ways and have become an integral part of the fabric of our communities in Washington’s ninth district and beyond. However, our broken immigration system enables the inhumane treatment of immigrants and denies them basic protections and due process,” said Congressman Smith. “Following four years of attacks that further eroded our asylum and immigration system, we have the opportunity to advance a smarter, more humane vision. Our legislation would reform the immigration detention system to no longer prioritize the unnecessary detention of individuals and families, allowing immigrants to live outside of detention while they await their immigration proceedings. It would end the repugnant for-profit detention system, and enact higher standards of care and robust oversight for immigration detention facilities. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act recognizes the contributions of immigrants to our communities, brings humanity and basic human rights to a failed immigration system, and takes a big step forward to the kinds of reforms we need across our immigration system.”

 

Specifically, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would:

  • Ensure all immigrants receive individualized and fair bond hearings by ending the use of mandatory detention of certain immigrants and requiring DHS to establish probable cause of removability within 48 hours of detention
  • Prevent the detention of a primary caregiver (and other vulnerable populations) unless the government can show it is unreasonable or not practicable to place the caregiver in community-based supervision enabling more families to stay together
  • End the use of private prisons and county jails for immigration detention over a three-year phase-out period
  • Improve detention standards for detention facilities housing immigrants by requiring DHS to match the civil detention standards set forth by the American Bar Association's Civil Immigration Detention Standards
  • Require the DHS Office of Inspector General to conduct random spot checks of all immigration detention facilities and stiffen penalties for facilities found to be in violation of DHS' improved civil detention standards
  • Require DHS to investigate all deaths of immigrants in its custody and issue a public report within 60 days

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is endorsed by dozens of organizations across America, including Amnesty International, National Immigrant Justice Center, Women’s Refugee Commission, Freedom For Immigrants, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), CASA, National Organization for Women, Asia Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, First Focus Campaign for Children, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Public Counsel, Church World Service, National Partnership for New Americans, and Union for Reform Judaism. You can view the fill list of endorsed organizations here.

Additionally, Senator Booker’s letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas specifically urges the federal agency to transform and address this issue by adopting the civil detention standards put forward by the American Bar Association’s Civil Immigration Detention Standards, prohibiting the use of private prisons and county jails for immigration detention, ensuring that all immigrants have access to a fair bond hearing, adopting a presumption of release in all cases, promoting community-based alternatives to detention centers, and conducting vigorous oversight of all ICE facilities.

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cosponsored the legislation.

The full text of the legislation can be viewed here

The full text of the letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can be viewed here

 

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