ACLU, Advocates Want Next President to Upend Anti-Immigration Policies

October 20, 2016
Rewire

Rewire spoke to the executive directors of two immigrant rights organizations about the issues they believe the next president should focus on. 

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In July, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released 'the Trump Memos', a constitutional analysis of Donald Trump's policy proposals and found that his immigration policies 'would most likely violate the Constitution, federal statuatory law, and/or international law'. The ACLU then released 'the Clinton Memos', a series of policies and reforms that Clinton should make if she is elected president. The ACLU's top recommendation for Clinton was that she end family detention, the practice of detaining asylum-seeking mothers and children in prisonlike conditions, with the goal of deporting them as quickly as possible. 

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Texas is home to two of the nation’s three remaining family detention centers, and the organization Grassroots Leadership is currently embroiled in a legal battle over state efforts to license these detention centers as child-care facilities under lowered standards. Grassroots Leadership Executive Director Bob Libal told Rewire that detention is harmful to everyone, but there is plenty of evidence that it has a “tremendous negative impact” on the mental health and overall well-being of children.

“The next president and advocates have a lot of work to do to roll back this massive detention regime that has been built up over the last 20 years,” Libal said. “I think most people recognize that a good very first place to start is to stop the totally egregious detention of children and their moms.”

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Before that debate, Libal told Rewire that advocacy organizations like Grassroots Leadership wanted to hear both candidates go on record about their views on family detention, in particular, because it has been such a major part of Clinton’s immigration platform.

“I think it could have a big impact,” Libal said. “There are a lot of people who still don’t know about family detention and that the average age of children in these prisonlike facilities is 6 years old. We’re talking about really young children. Family detention, I think, has become representative of our entire broken [immigration] system. If we want to know what candidates are going to do about immigration enforcement broadly, a good place to start would be what they plan to do about the mass detention of kids and their moms who are seeking asylum in the United States.”

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If the next president doesn’t end family detention, “and if we continue on this path, it will be a mark on our country’s history,” said Libal.