One of the most easily and commonly overlooked groups of immigrants are detainees. Every day, more than 32,000 individuals languish in detention facilities scattered across the country, unnoticed and ignored. Thousands of these detainees are immigrants fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States.
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will implement new reforms to its detention system and bring greater oversight to the numerous private and government run facilities, which are often in remote locations far from family and access to legal services.
In recent months, news articles have also highlighted the poor conditions in which immigrants are detained; lack of access to proper medical conditions and neglect by medical personnel have led to the deaths of nearly 100 immigrants in detention.
The reforms call for the creation of an Office of Policy and Planning within DHS and two advisory groups made up of community organizations and advocates, as well as the appointment of detention managers to work in the largest detention facilities.
Most importantly, DHS announced that it will end the detention of families at T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility in Taylor, TX.
Combined the reforms are encouraging but there must be caution.
Detention and its conditions are a poor reflection of the immigrant history and character of the United States. The reality is that these immigrants are hardworking, family-oriented and ambitious individuals who arrived in the United States to seek a better life. Those fleeing persecution in their home countries arrive on our shores in hopes of finding opportunity and a new start. Instead, they are often imprisoned and spend the first days and sometimes months in a cell.
As DHS considers options for fixing the immigration system, it must not be lost that at the center of this discussion people must come first. We are reminded in the Catholic faith that all humans are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Even as there is need for enforcement and protection of the nation’s borders, it should not be at the expense of another’s humanity. CLINIC, in support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urges humane immigration reform that emphasizes family reunification, a legalization program that moves immigrants already in the United States out the shadows, and ends the inhumane and ineffective practice of worksite and home raids.