Lately there has been a lot of talk about President Obama’s deportation program and the impending 2 million deportation mark we expect to reach by the end of this year. It’s a policy that has been widely criticized by immigrant rights activists, but with less focus on how and why it is being implemented.
Since 2006, our immigrant system has operated under a detention “bed mandate” that requires ICE agents to maintain a minimum of 34,000 immigrants each day in U.S. detention centers.
This creates all kinds of incentives for agents to detain undocumented immigrants, even for the most minor offenses, tearing families and lives apart.
And for what? Personally, I see no logic behind this policy besides a blatant effort to fund the private prison industry, which owns 50% of the 250 detention centers running in the United States. According to Presente.org:
Putting someone in a private detention center costs $160 each day, or $2 billion each year – a huge giveaway to private prison companies like GEO Group. Meanwhile, alternatives to incarceration cost as little as $17 per day, are effective, and they keep immigrant families together as they wait for due process.
In this interview with the Real News, Catalina Nieto, the Field Director of Detention Watch Network, argues that this policy makes it so that anyone who is deported is detained, where they have no right to due process, and live in inhumane conditions. In order for a detainee to see loved ones, their families are often required to drive extremely long distances to reach the detention center he/she/they have been arbitrarily placed into. This is unacceptable. For Nieto,
Eliminating mandatory detention should be key to any immigration reform. Eliminating the 34,000 bed quota should be part of any immigration reform, which we’re not seeing right now in the proposed bills. Also, a lot of people who have criminal convictions would not get any protection, would not get legalization. And we want to make sure that any immigration reform that’s coming from the Congress really protects all immigrants, not just a few. Right?
This policy plays a huge factor in the record-breaking deportations we are seeing under the Obama administration: if we want to put an end to families being torn apart, this is where we start.
Already, 14,000 people have signed Presente.org’s petition and 65 members of Congress have requested that the President remove this funding request. Will you be the 14,001st person that gets Obama to listen?
“President Obama could push back against this policy. Instead, his budget request legitimizes it. It’s one thing for GOP extremists to request a policy like this — it’s another thing entirely when a President who claims to support our communities does.”