No Human Being is Illegal.
“And we now see that the same get tough rhetoric and politics that birthed mass incarceration is leading to another prison building boom, this one aimed at suspected ‘illegal immigrants’.” — Michelle Alexander, 2014 Christian Community Development Association National Conference Keynote Address
You want to really get me going, let’s talk about immigrants and how we treat them in the United States. It’s sickening. And it is related directly, as Michelle Alexander proclaims, to our tough on crime attitudes, attempts at social control of minorities, our fears of the other, all deeply, deeply imbedded in our American conscience and exerting devastating control through our systems. These immigrants, most of whom have done nothing wrong except “break” laws that are illogical, irrational, counter-productive, and unjust to their very core, came to the U.S. to seek a better life for their families. What they did is something that not one of us could deny that we wouldn’t also do if it meant the survival, literally, of our families. And now we are tearing apart these innocent families, shattering their dreams of a better life together.
Over the next few days, I will be discussing how we not only lock up immigrants literally (see detention stats below), but how we lock them out of our country and our society in ways that are devastating to us all. I know this is a hot-button political issue. I have experienced it firsthand. However, we cannot let the fear-mongering breakdown of civil discourse lead us to neglect dialogue and action regarding one of the most important issues facing all of us today. And this isn’t a partisan issue. All sides are complicit. Don’t let the spin doctors fool you. Just like the War on Drugs and the Tough on Crime movements, the poor and marginalized are the first to suffer for political points.
We have got to rise above all this noise! For the sakes of our neighbors, your classmates, your children’s friends, those who serve us every day in back-breaking occupations so that we are comfortable, for families and communities and cultures that are beautifully beneficial to our “melting-pot” country of immigrants. Rise up people of mercy and compassion!
- “[Immigration]’s the fastest-growing incarceration system in the United States: 3 million immigrants have been held in detention facilities across the country during the past decade… [T]he federal government pays private detention centers between $80 and $120 per detainee per day, though costs are in the $30 range.” *see Map: The U.S. Immigration Detention Boom Again, the almighty dollar destroys human dignity.
- “In 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) held a record-breaking 429,000 immigrants in over 250 facilities across the country, and currently maintains a daily capacity of 33,400 beds—even though, in the overwhelming majority of cases, detention is not necessary to effect deportations and does not make us any safer. Among those unnecessarily locked up are survivors of torture, asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, families with small children, the elderly, individuals with serious medical and mental health conditions, and lawful permanent residents with longstanding family and community ties who are facing deportation because of old or minor crimes. This lock-up system is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, costing $122 to $164 to hold a detainee each day, or $2 billion a year. Adding insult to injury, detainees are exposed to myriad abuses—from a lack of adequate medical and mental health care that has caused unnecessary deaths to rape and sexual abuse.” *see ACLU Immigrants’ Rights
- “For the Fiscal Year that begins October 1, 2013 (Fiscal year 2014), DHS and the White House requested $1.84 billion for DHS Custody Operations. This funding level would amount to over $5 million per day spent on immigration detention.” *see The Math of Immigration Detention
- “Congress requires that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detain and deport 400,000 illegal immigrants per year — and ICE’s funding depends on meeting that quota. Since 2008, immigration detention facilities have held an average of 30,000 detainees per day. During the Obama administration, more than 1 million people have been deported.”
- “Now, just as the federal government has pulled back the throttle on the drug war, it is embarking on an unprecedented campaign to criminally prosecute undocumented immigrants crossing the border. The result: A new wave of non-violent offenders are flooding the nation’s prisons…Immigration offenders represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the federal prison population, providing a lucrative market for private prison corporations that largely control these inmates in the system.” *see War on Undocumented Immigrants
“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!” Deuteronomy 27:19