Friday, May 15, 2015
Of all the malfunctioning parts in the country's broken-down immigration machinery, probably the most indefensible is the detention system.LGBT immigrants should also be included in that—last week Hillary Clinton shared some of her views on that (whether she'll stand by her words or not, we'll see).
This is the vast network of jails and prisons where suspected immigration violators are held while awaiting a hearing and possible deportation. Immigrant detainees are not criminal defendants or convicts serving sentences. They are locked up merely because the government wants to make sure they show up in immigration court.
Detention is intended to help enforce the law, but, in practice, the system breeds cruelty and harm, and squanders taxpayer money. It denies its victims due process of law, punishing them far beyond the scare of any offense. It shatters families and traumatizes children. As a system of mass incarceration—particularly of women and children fleeing persecution in Central America—it is immoral.
But committees and cubicles won't touch the heart of the problem. It's time to end mass detention, particularly of families. Shut the system down, and replace it with something better.
Ending mass detention would not mean allowing unauthorized immigrants to disappear. Supervised or conditional release, ankle bracelets and other monitoring technologies, plus community-based support with intensive case management can work together to make the system more humane. But neither Congress nor the Homeland Security Department has embraced these approaches, which would be far cheaper than locking people up.