US bishops want an end to immigration detention

Imm ReformOn Monday the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called for the current immigration detention system to be dismantled, saying that families are undermined and children harmed by the detention facilities. The bishops issued a joint recommendation with the Center for Migration Studies that the practice should be replaced with alternative programs that would provide due process and simple human dignity to undocumented immigrants.

The report from the bishops, entitled Unlocking Human Dignity: A Plan to Transform the US Immigrant Detention System, suggests that funding for existing immigration facilities should be redirected by Congress toward community programs and immigration courts to give immigrants supervised release and help, except for instances where national security and public safety are in question.

“The psychological and emotional impact of detention on those seeking protection – especially mothers and children – only adds to their trauma,” says the USCCB Committee on Migration chair and Seattle’s auxiliary bishop, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo. “The current practice of family detention must end.” The Migration and Refugee Services USCCB policy adviser, Ashley Feasley, says that mothers held in detention have expressed serious concerns about their children’s wellbeing and mental health, with many children having nightmares and panic attacks and losing weight while in detention.

The report compares the treatment of detained immigrants to the treatment of criminals and points out that detention has not served as a deterrent. The report also states that alternative programs would be more economical and suggests that Congress should put an end to the majority of mandatory detention cases.