Oct 20, 2016

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

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


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. 


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.”


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.”


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.



Elected officials join advocates' call to end, not mend family detention

Drawing by 8-year-old in family detention given to Rep. Roybal-Allard on recent Congressional tour

Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson issued a press release announcing a number of modifications to family detention. The announcement claims that the agency will do away with long-term detention in most cases and set “reasonable” bonds for families that pass credible fear examinations. Our take on this is expressed perfectly by our executive director, Bob Libal in Grassroots Leadership’s statement: “It is impossible to make family detention reasonable or humane. Mass family detention is an extremely recent development and is emblematic of our society’s rush to use incarceration as the solution to any difficult issue. The Administration ended mass family detention once in 2009, and they can and should end it again today.”


An outpouring of legislators, advocacy organizations, and faith groups also released statements that these changes are not sufficient, and that the only solution is to end the inhumane detention of asylum seeking mothers and children altogether.

Trending: Mass Incarceration, For-Profit Private Prisons & the Rise of Immigration Detention

Carl Takei is a staff attorney with the National Prison Project of the ACLU.  The ACLU has been a key partner in our efforts to put an end to for-profit incarceration, and this year's campaign to protest Corrections Corporation of America's "celebration" of their 30th anniversary.  Last week in Nashville, on the eve of CCA's annual shareholder meeting, we co-hosted an educational panel on for-profit incarceration where Carl shared these remarks, which are an excellent synthesis of the the major trends that are bound by the private corporations that profiteer from imprisoning human beings.

Three trends – the mass incarceration paradigm, private for-profit prisons, and the rise of a massive immigration detention machinery – emerged within the past forty years.  And there is a common thread linking them all: The private prison companies that profit from mass incarceration and immigrant detention.


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