DWN Statement on Immigration Reform Proposals
Washington, DC – In response to the Senate proposals and President Barack Obama’s vision for a new immigration process, Andrea Black, executive director of the Detention Watch Network issued this statement:
Four years ago, President Obama promised that he would work toward improving the immigration process for aspiring Americans; yesterday, he took the first step to deliver on that promise. After 15 years of advocating for improving access to legal information for immigrants in detention, expanding alternatives, and providing greater legal protections, the Detention Watch Network is encouraged that the president included these elements in his plan.
President Obama also promised three years ago to correct the country’s flawed immigration detention system that is so massive and mismanaged that it has led to rampant due process and human rights abuses. In his proposal, President Obama highlighted the need to reduce detention costs. We are encouraged by his words and are hopeful that it will result in a dramatic reduction of the number of people presently incarcerated in our immigration gulag. But we also remain realistic and know that this will only be fully realized if mandatory detention laws are eliminated. Currently, 70 percent of immigrants are in detention due to these laws, which means that despite the president’s expressed vision, neither ICE nor any judge has the power to release them to their families and communities. This must be addressed.
We are also discouraged that despite this, President Obama began his speech with a focus on enforcement. Neither the White House’s nor Senate’s plans respond to years of community outrage about border and interior enforcement programs that have separated families, stripped people of due process rights, and created serious human rights abuses.
It is time to align our immigration policies with our country’s values: the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Immigration laws must be based on the fundamental rights of due process and a fair day in court, liberty of the person and freedom from arbitrary detention, and the protection of refugees, and the unity of the family.
We are committed to working with the administration, Congress, and ICE to ensure these proposed reforms will uphold these fundamental rights and result in an elimination of mandatory detention.