No one doubts the immigration system is broken. But with the dilly dallying that seems to have enveloped any immigration reform legislation, families continue to be broken up and lives continue to be lost in the vast immigration detention and deportation network.
At a cost of $1.7 billion a year, the immigration detention system is a vast network of federally run detention centers and about 300 state and county jails that detain 32,000 detainees every night or 370,000 in the year. Many of these facilities are privately run. The New York Times ran a shocking expose of desperate attempts by immigration officials to conceal the death and mistreatment of immigrants. But the real icing on the cake came yesterday.
When the Obama administration vowed to overhaul immigration detention last year, its promise of more humane treatment and accountability was spurred in part by the harrowing treatment of two detainees who died in the Bush years….But on Wednesday, the administration argued in federal court that the government had no liability for neglect or abuse by private contractors running the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I.
It’s a shocking way to cast off blame and responsibility. Both Hiu Lui Ng (34) and and Francisco Castaneda (36) were treated awfully in detention, denied treatment for cancer even when in agonizing pain. Advocates have consistently asked for legally binding standards for detention facilities as well as community based alternatives to detention. Many promises have been put forth to reform the system but ground realities seem to tell a different story. And now the administration is trying to abdicate its responsibility to those whom it detains.
Detention reform remains an essential part of any larger immigration reform. With increasing pressure from the community, the LA Times reported,
Despite steep odds, the White House has discussed prospects for reviving a major overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, a commitment that President Obama has postponed once already. Obama took up the issue privately with his staff Monday in a bid to advance a bill through Congress before lawmakers become too distracted by approaching midterm elections.
Public pressure is strong for reform. Editorials in the the Washington Post and the New York Times have angrily accused President Obama and Congress of not fulfilling their responsibilities. It seems an ever growing cycle – with no one wanting to take blame and responsibility, just like the “it’s not my problem” attitude towards detention. But the outcome of this is a loss of lives, broken communities and ever growing despair with unkept promises.