We, the undersigned XX Catholic organizations, write in support of H.R. 3923, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act introduced by Representative Pramila Jayapal and Representative Adam Smith. This important bill helps ensure our immigrant sisters and brothers who are detained are treated in a way that protects their inherent worth and dignity as children of God. Our Church has long advocated against the U.S. immigration detention system as it fails a moral imperative and criminalizes immigrants and asylum seekers. The detention system engenders despair, divides families, causes asylum-seekers to relive trauma, leads many to forfeit their legal claims, and fails to treat immigrants with dignity and respect. We ask you to support this bill.
H.R. 3923 seeks to phase out the use of private detention centers and prioritize the use of alternatives to detention which are more humane and cost-effective. It is wrong to allow for-profit companies to run immigration detention facilities and to profit on the misery of our immigrant sisters and brothers. Currently, for-profit contractors operate 73% of the entire immigrant detention system[vi], including nine of the ten largest detention centers.[vii] Non-governmental organizations have long documented unacceptable levels of abuse occurring in privately-managed detention centers. In addition to lack of accountability and oversight of these facilities, asylum seekers detained in for-profit facilities have been found to be 40 percent less likely to obtain relief than those in ICE facilities.
Alternatives to detention are both cost effective and provide customized care that meets the needs of immigrant families. They offer unique case management-based community support models provide legal and social services, as well as community support to vulnerable individuals such as asylum seekers, torture victims, pregnant women, families with young children, primary caregivers, elderly, and victims of crime who would otherwise be detained. This type of program offers unique data collection, case management expertise, and customized case-by-case evaluation methodology implemented by expert staff to ensure humane treatment and compliance with immigration legal requirements. Our nation must exercise care to ensure dignity.
The bill also provides protections to ensure there is greater accountability and transparency over detention practices under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by setting oversight measures to ensure DHS detention facility maintain standards of operation that ensure the health and wellbeing of immigrants. It is critical that immigrants in detention have access to life-sustaining healthcare, food, and safe living conditions. Finally, there must be a mechanism to ensure accountability and this bill provides fair and balanced means to do so.
Pope Francis calls on us to “Respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions for migrants more humane.” As we work through the reforms needed in our immigration system, it is crucial that we are careful to remember and acknowledge the dignity of the people in our care. We must also recognize and acknowledge the factors that lead many immigrants to risk their lives and those of their families to come to our country. Too often they flee to avoid significant violence and dire conditions in their home countries. We must be careful to not increase their suffering by placing them in detention facilities with horrific conditions.
H.R. 3923 recognizes the dignity of detained immigrants and offers reasonable alternatives to current detention practices. We ask members of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 3923 the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act and join their colleagues in making sure that we caring for those who are most vulnerable in our communities.