Transformative legislation ends the use of private detention facilities, repeals mandatory detention, prohibits solitary confinement, and promotes community-based alternatives to detention while also restoring due process for immigrants and increasing oversight, accountability, and transparency measures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Adam Smith (WA-09) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, transformative legislation that ends the inhumane conditions of detention centers and protects the civil and human rights of immigrants. The bill urgently reforms the alarming injustices of a broken, for-profit immigration detention system by ending the use of private detention facilities altogether, repealing mandatory detention, stopping family detention, and prohibiting solitary confinement while also restoring due process and increasing oversight, accountability, and transparency measures.

The legislation will shrink the population of detention centers and promote more humane and less costly community-based alternatives by mandating that all detained immigrants have access to a custody hearing in front of an immigration judge. Vulnerable populations — including primary caregivers and asylum seekers — will also be protected. Additionally, the government will be required to show probable cause that someone poses a risk to the community in order to detain them. Importantly, the bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish legally enforceable civil detention standards, and creates a meaningful inspection process at facilities. 

“Immigrants make our country stronger in countless ways and have become an integral part of the fabric of our communities in Washington’s ninth district and beyond. However, our broken immigration system enables the inhumane treatment of immigrants and denies them basic protections and due process,” said Congressman Smith. “Following four years of attacks that further eroded our asylum and immigration system, we have the opportunity to advance a smarter, more humane vision. Our legislation would reform the immigration detention system to no longer prioritize the unnecessary detention of individuals and families, allowing immigrants to live outside of detention while they await their immigration proceedings. It would end the repugnant for-profit detention system and enact higher standards of care and robust oversight for immigration detention facilities. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act recognizes the contributions of immigrants to our communities, brings humanity and basic human rights to a failed immigration system, and takes a big step forward to the kinds of reforms we need across our immigration system.”

“Ending the unjust treatment of immigrants and the inhumane conditions that they are subjected to is going to take far more than removing Donald Trump, it will take removing America’s for-profit detention system altogether,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act ends the use of private detention facilities, repeals mandatory detention, promotes community-based alternatives, and restores due process while transforming the entire system so immigrants finally have their human rights and wellbeing protected.”

“During the Trump Administration, we saw vividly how our immigration detention system can dehumanize and harm those seeking asylum in the United States. As we work to reform this broken system, we must ensure that how we treat immigrants who come to our nation to seek refuge reflects our American values,” said Senator Booker. “Our bill will protect the civil rights of immigrant detainees so that they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is endorsed by dozens of organizations across America, including Amnesty International, National Immigrant Justice Center, Women’s Refugee Commission, Freedom For Immigrants, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), CASA, National Organization for Women, Asia Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, First Focus Campaign for Children, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Public Counsel, Church World Service, National Partnership for New Americans, and Union for Reform Judaism.

“The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is a transformative measure moving the U.S. toward achieving what should be the administration’s and Congress’ number one goal: freeing people, including all children and families, from immigration detention. It's high time that the U.S. makes immigration detention the rare exception, not the norm, and eliminates the profit motive from detention," said Joanne Lin, National Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "The Biden Administration needs to do much more, and faster, to reset our immigration detention system. Working with Congress to pass this bill will get the U.S. on the path to doing just that.”

"This bill marks a very important first step towards dismantling a system that is built on the mass incarceration of Black immigrants and immigrants of color,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG). “Particularly in this moment of racial reckoning, its passage is critical to ensuring a move away from criminalization and oppression and towards a more humane and compassionate immigration system."

“The Department of Homeland Security utilizes a sprawling network of jails to detain tens of thousands of immigrants every day in harsh and punitive conditions. The failings of this system include dozens of deaths, rampant allegations of abuse, and countless unjust deportations. The agency holds far too many for far too long in a system that incentivizes profits and politics over human life and due process,” said Nayna Gupta, associate director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC). “The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act takes overdue steps toward a civil immigration system with greater humanity.” 

“The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act lays the foundation for a transformative vision of our immigration system. U.S. immigration detention cruelly jails hundreds of thousands of people each year in unconscionable conditions, leaving them separated from their communities, families, and the support to successfully navigate an immigration case,” said Katharina Obser, Acting Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “This important legislation puts forward an affirmative vision for a different, better way. The Women’s Refugee Commission is grateful to the leadership of Representative Jayapal, Representative Smith, and Senator Booker, and looks forward to working with Congress to create a more rights-respecting, dignified, and just immigration system.”

“Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains tens of thousands of people every year in a sprawling network of immigration detention centers across the country with a horrific history of abuse, negligence and even death. This is a shameful moral failure of the US immigration system. No one should have to suffer behind bars while they are going through their immigration case. Currently the overwhelming majority of people in ICE detention are held in facilities operated by private prison companies or state and local governments who get paid for each individual they detain,” said Setareh Ghandehari, Advocacy Director at Detention Watch Network. “The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act gets rid of these perverse financial incentives by requiring the phase out of private prisons and local jails for ICE detention. The Act will also have a real impact on individual lives by ending detention for certain vulnerable populations, ending mandatory detention provisions in our immigration laws, and establishing a presumption of release for everyone. Dignity for Detained Immigrants brings us closer to a more just and humane immigration system.”

To view the text of the legislation, click here.

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