Immigrant Rights Coalition Launches Campaign to Repeal Mandatory Detention

dignity not detentionA wide range of faith, immigrant rights, and community-based organizations joined Detention Watch Network (DWN) today to announce the launch of its “Dignity, Not Detention” campaign,
calling on Congress to repeal all laws mandating the detention of immigrants.

The announcement marks the 15-year anniversary of the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, legislation that dramatically increased the number of people subject to mandatory detention. The law requires the government to lock up immigrants, including legal permanent residents who have lived
in the U.S. their entire lives and asylum seekers seeking refuge in the U.S., without the right to due process.

“Everyone deserves fair and equal treatment under the law, regardless of their immigration status,” said Silky Shah, Field Organizer for DWN. “But for the past 15 years, mandatory detention has denied countless people the right to a fair day in court, tearing apart families and communities across the country, and fueling the expansion of a broken immigration detention system.”

For the past six months, newlyweds Hope and Nazry Mustakim have suffered the dire consequences of mandatory detention. Nazry, a 31-year-old legal permanent resident from Singapore, has been detained at the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall, Texas since March, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement took Nazry into custody and started deportation proceedings based on a conviction for a felony drug possession committed half a decade ago.

Under IIRIRA, Mustakim’s drug possession charge makes him subject to mandatory detention while he pursues his legal case despite being a legal permanent resident who has since become sober and changed his life completely.

“My husband has been clean and sober for 5 years now and has dedicated his life to helping others recover from addiction,” said Hope Mustakim. “We were only married for 8 months before he was taken away from me. Now I only see him twice a month through the pane glass at
the detention center, which is a 260 mile drive from my home. The emotional and financial cost of our separation has been devastating, and it saddens me to know that this is happening to other families caught up in the detention system across the country.”

Since 1996, the immigration detention system has grown rapidly, from 70,000 people detained annually to about 400,000. The US now maintains a sprawling network of detention facilities, comprised of more than 250 federal, state and private prisons and county jails, at an annual
cost of $1.7 billion to taxpayers. The expansion of the detention system has been accompanied by increasing levels of abuse, ranging from substandard living conditions to over 120 immigrant deaths since 2003.

“In Florida we’re experiencing the expansion of the immigration detention system firsthand,” says Kathy Bird of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “In Broward County there are plans to build one of the largest immigration detention centers in the country, with capacity for 1,500 beds or even more. We’ve seen the disastrous effects that detention centers have had in other communities around the country, and we’re working with immigration advocates and concerned residents in Broward County to make sure we’re not replicating the problem.”

Through its Dignity, Not Detention campaign, Detention Watch Network, a national coalition working to reform the immigration detention system, is calling on Congress and the Obama Administration to:

  • Repeal all laws mandating the detention of non-citizens.
  • Put an end to all policies and programs that use the criminal justice system to target people for detention and deportation.
  • Bring the U.S. into compliance with its obligations under international human rights law, which prohibits arbitrary detention.
  • “If we’re serious about restoring due process to our immigration laws and reducing the human and financial cost of the detention system,” says Shah. “It’s time we put an end to mandatory detention.”

The Detention Watch Network is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to educate the public and policy makers about the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for humane reform so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment. For more information visit the Detention Watch Network.


  1. Jack says

    So what if many of them aren’t felons? Yet. They’re willing to break the law by sneaking into this country. And the cost of illegal immigration is enormous! Once here, illegal aliens can choose not to work and instead have babies that are “instant citizens” entitled to welfare, free health insurance, Section 8 housing, HEAP payments for heating and air conditioning, and all the other social services we freely give to poor people. Their kids can even get free college, and take seats in universities that your own kids won’t be able to get! Progressives often point to how unfair it is that illegal aliens are poor, and how nice it is if we help them. But realistically, we can’t possibly feed and house all of the world’s poor, and by doing so for just those who break into our country, we’re reducing the resources available to help those who are willing to live and work to improve their own communities in their countries of origin. Why are their needs less important to progressives than the needs of illegal aliens who break our laws?

    Liberals often make fun of right wingers who “vote against their own interests.” Meanwhile, many on the left can’t see that illegal immigration is killing our country. Liberals and progressives constantly support illegal aliens, in spite of the fact that they’re destroying our way of life and our children’s future. Do you want your kids to be able to get a good job and achieve the American dream of stability and a good career? Because if we continue the way we’re going, our kids will be working in an economy similar to India, Mexico, Korea and other countries that never benefited from a strong middle class.

    Blue collar wages are plummeting because illegal aliens are willing to work for far less that what it costs to legally hire an American citizen. The workplace advances we’ve made for the past century are falling away as businesses realize they can hire illegal aliens who are not going to report workplace safety violations and their employers’ refusal to pay for social security, workers’ compensation, and other taxes and benefit costs they’d have to pay for if they legally hired American employees.

    Companies that outsource are finding that other countries are often risky business environments. The reason business owners are able to become very wealthy in this country is because we’ve spread the costs of a stable environment among the rest of us. Business owners benefit from the broad tax base that pays for the roads to move their products, the schools to educate their employees, and the police to keep their factories secure. Outsourcing to some countries might mean having to pay graft to the police. Outsourcing business owners can face huge losses from uncontrollable theft. The rich know they’ll make more money if they can keep businesses here, but still have the employee costs found in other countries. So they’re deliberately and proactively destroying the gains we have made in this country. Allowing an influx of illegal labor is part of that goal.

    When the left wing tries to keep our government from deporting illegal aliens, they’re pretty much thumbing their nose at those American immigrants who were willing to abide by our laws and follow the rules to live here. They’re also telling hard working workers that they may as well vote Republican, because our side is going to pressure the Democrats into allowing more and more illegal aliens to steal our resources.

    Instead of allowing corporations to profit from illegal immigration, and instead of degrading our own country, we should be exporting the gains our unions and our strong middle class have created for America’s workers. Imagine if workers in Mexico, Latin America, India, China, even North Korea were all brought up to the standards American workers have demanded in terms of workplace safety and minimum pay! American companies would even stop outsourcing if they suddenly were required to abide by our standards, like, hey, maybe kids shouldn’t have to work in sweatshops.

    So, my question is, when are liberals going to stop voting against their own interests and start recognizing that helping illegal aliens only makes our country, and their countries of origin, much worse off.

  2. Jack says

    Why would liberals want the government to just allow illegal aliens with felony convictions to wander our streets? Do you even think about what you’re posting here? When an illegal alien with a prior felony sells drugs to your kid or rapes you, maybe you’ll finally get it. It doesn’t matter that this guy Nazry Mustakimu’s wife says he’s clean and a good guy now. He’s a felon for Pete’s sake, and obviously doesn’t care enough about our rules and our society to abide by the immigration laws. And you want the government to just let him loose because his wife says he’s changed now and she misses him. Jeez.

    The solution is get detainees out of this country quicker, especially those with felonies. Not just let them loose in our communities. An even better solution would be to put anyone who hires illegal aliens in jail. We’d see a drop in illegal immigration as soon as they figure out they can’t come here undermining our workplaces.

    The reason why the number of detention detainees is going up is because we have been very lax about allowing illegal aliens to come into our country. Millions more have come here in the past 15 years, especially since we gave those before them amnesty.

    People hire illegal aliens because they’re willing to work for less than minimum pay, they’re willing to not report illegal activities and workplace safety violations, and they don’t mind if their boss doesn’t pay their workers comp, unemployment insurance, social security, etc. For all these reasons, illegal alien labor is destroying America’s working and middle classes.

    If liberals want to help poor people from other countries, we should do the work to raise the standards of living in those countries, not destroy the workplace standards and values we have created here.

    • MdeG says

      Many people in immigration detention are not felons at all. At least of those arrested under SComm, a small minority are actually accused of felonies. The rest are accused either of misdemeanors (for which a citizen would not be jailed) or merely of unauthorized presence, which is a civil infraction. Some number of them are not even undocumented — recent figures on SComm say that several thousand citizens have been arrested in error. This is especially disturbing in view of the restricted rights accorded to immigration detainees.

      It’s true that some undocumented migrants commit serious crimes. All indications are that they do so at a lower rate than citizens. I think it’s fine for them to be dealt with according to their actions. I do not agree with IIRAIRA.

      Seems to me that the ICE gulag is a much graver threat to *all* of us, than are undocumented migrants.

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