The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has recognized the violence and injustice in our nation’s prison and detention systems. Immigrants in detention are particularly vulnerable. Facilities and their oversight are not centralized and they are often exempt from many of the enforceable standards to which other jails and prisons are subject. Detention facilities are a patchwork of for-profit-prisons, ICE operated facilities, and jails and prisons that contract with the Department of Homeland Security. A 2012 report, Invisible in Isolation, highlighted the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention.   

The report and ICES’s recent release of some immigrants who were unnecessarily detained have resulted in renewed interest in immigration detention. The report highlighted the use of solitary and offered alternatives. The number of immigrants in detention has continued to grow over the last ten years. In 2011, approximately 429,000 immigrants were detained – an all time record according to a September 2012 report by the Department of Homeland Security.[1]

Often the use of immigration detention is mandatory and individuals may not have the opportunity to present evidence they should not be detained. The General Assembly has urged for the use of alternatives to immigration detention and urged the Office of the General Assembly to take action to curb the use of immigration detention for individuals who do not pose a threat to society. 

Earlier this week, the Office of Immigration Issues joined with over 100 other organizations to urge Senator Schumer to ensure that any legislation that reform our nation’s immigration laws would include provisions that address the abuses and violations in detention.  You can view the letter at this link. Senator Schumer was sent this letter because he has been a vocal opponent of the use of solitary confinement for immigration detainees.  In fact in March 2013 he urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement to limit its use or Congress would.[2]

With immigration reform legislation anticipated the week of April 8th, you can support this work. Take action for immigration reform that includes reforming immigration detention, by contacting your congressional representatives.  Please use your voice on behalf of those without a voice in our system of government and urge congress pass just and commonsense immigration laws. 

[1] Annual Report: Immigration Enforcement Actions: 2011 (PDF).  Accessed 04/06/2013.

[2] NY Daily Times, Schumer to ICE: Limit Use of Solitary Confinement or Congress Will (PDF).  Accessed 04/06/2012.