Over 100 rights organizations on Monday pressured U.S. President Joe Biden to end the mass detention of migrants, describing the practice as inhumane, unjust, unnecessary, and fiscally irresponsible.
“We urge you to recognize that our shared values of humanity and compassion require the dismantling of our system of mass immigrant detention,” 114 groups wrote in a letter to the president. “In particular, we urge you to support the closure of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention sites, prevent the development of new detention sites or expansion of existing ones, and seek reduced funding for immigration detention from Congress.”
While emphasizing that “inhumane conditions and treatment are rife across the immigrant detention system,” the organizations highlighted some examples of abuse documented at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities across the country.
At Baker County Detention Center in Florida, “people have faced pepper sprays while officers pinned them down or confined and targeted them with anti-Black racial slurs and harassment,” the letter states. “Women at Baker have endured humiliation—such as being denied sanitary napkins and clean clothes, forcing them to sleep in blood-soaked sheets.”
The letter adds that at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, “officers have forced women to engage in sexual contact with a staff member, blocked from leaving medical exam rooms, and forced or coerced into giving access to intimate parts of their bodies without medical justification.”
“Now is the time for principled leadership following the long-awaited court ruling lifting the Title 42 public health expulsion order,” the groups asserted. “As your administration stands up processing of individuals, we urge you to not fall back on harmful, arbitrary, and unnecessary detention in response to people seeking protection.”
The lead attorney for the ACLU’s challenge to Title 42 called the federal court decision striking it down “a huge victory… that literally has life-and-death stakes.” Last week also saw a Senate hearing and report confirming the “systematic medical abuse” of migrant women in ICE detention as well as former President Donald Trump announcing that he is running again in 2024.
The letter points out that while the whole system is problematic, “private prison companies are some of the biggest beneficiaries of mass immigrant detention, and have pocketed hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars from ICE contracts, many of which include wasteful contract terms.”
According to Sirine Shebaya, executive director at the National Immigration Project, another letter signatory, “People navigating their immigration cases should be able to do so alongside their families and communities—not behind bars or while being surveilled by ICE.”
Originally published at Commondreams.org.