“The Biden administration is clearly failing to live up to its promises of a more just and humane immigration system,” Detention Watch Network, FIRM Action, Mijente, United We Dream, and the We Are Home campaign said in a statement received by Daily Kos. The coalition is calling for an end to inhumane deportations and mass Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention, noting the “number of people in detention has increased at an alarming rate since the start of the Biden administration, nearly doubling in mid-July.” Private prisons, in particular, make a handsome profit while detained immigrants get sick, suffer, and die.
Biden’s immigration platform further pledged to “[r]eassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees.” But groups noted his administration “shamefully continues to defend the Trump-era Title 42 deportations, doubling down on racist and anti-Black border enforcement that is disproportionately impacting Haitian migrants.” Six ICE deportation flights are scheduled to go to Haiti on Friday alone.
But advocates said on Thursday that a better path forward on immigration is possible. “Now is the moment to intervene and reverse course, before Biden allows the immigration detention system to reach maximum capacity,” Shah wrote for Truthout. “People navigating their immigration cases should be able to do so with their families and in community—not behind bars in immigration jails.” Indeed, lower detention numbers mandated by the courts amid the pandemic show it’s possible. “Now is the time to push Biden to turn things around and hold him to his word,” Shah continued.
“For decades, immigrant communities have suffered the destructive and cruel practices of ICE detention and deportation,” We Are Home Campaign Director Bridgette Gomez said. “Today, we join allies to say no more separated families, no more deportation flights, and certainly no more profiting from the vulnerability, pain, and suffering of immigrant communities.”
“Biden’s early moves on detention and private prisons should not be overlooked,” Shah noted. “DHS publicly ended contracts at two abysmal jails in Georgia and Massachusetts that had received considerable activist attention. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, in a congressional hearing earlier this year, stated there was an ‘overuse of detention.’ And Biden issued an executive order to phase out the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) use of private prisons.”
“But despite those moves, Biden has backtracked,” she continued. “Earlier this summer, the DOJ argued against a California law that would ban private prisons in the state, contradicting his own administration’s stated priorities. Subsequently, it was also revealed that a shuttered DOJ private prison in Pennsylvania will be converted into a new ICE jail, raising questions about the administration’s commitment to downsizing ICE’s footprint.”
During his campaign, the president also pledged to end the previous administration’s harmful 287(g) agreements. But lawmakers said this week they’re not aware of any significant steps yet by the Biden administration.
“Now is the time for Congress to drastically reduce ICE’s budget and release people from detention,” Shah concluded. “9/11 provided cover for the expansion of the immigration enforcement apparatus.” Both ICE and Customs and Border Protection were created following the Sept. 11 attacks, making both relatively recent agencies. Yet these agencies commonly flout Congress, lie, abuse, and quite literally get away with murder. They’ve been allowed to do this for nearly two decades, and their punishment has been more and more funding every year. “Biden has the opportunity to begin to dismantle it,” Shah said. “To do so, he must end immigration detention.”
Detention Watch Network has set out a goal to urge the Biden administration to shut down ten abusive ICE sites this year. You can send your letter in support of those closures here.
“We also remind the Biden-Harris administration that we are and will hold them accountable to their promises on the campaign trail,” Gomez continued. “We need a clear pathway to citizenship, protections for immigrant families, and a fair and humane immigration system that keeps our families and communities together and thriving.”