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Watch: ¡No Estoy Sola! #EndtheQuota Action in Washington, DC

May 20, 2014

tory-blogPost written by Tory Johnson reposted from the FCNL blog:

“You are not alone! ¡Tú no estás solo!” These calls of support nearly brought me to tears as I stood in front of the White House last Friday, risking arrest for the first time. Four others stood with me, looking into a crowd of over 100 people standing with us, calling for an end to the immigration detention quota.

In 2009, Congress mandated that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintain a minimum of 33,400 detention beds. The 2010 DHS appropriations bill increased this quota to 34,000, where it remains today. The language requires immigration officials to maintain this level of detention beds, and historically both DHS officials and members of Congress have interpreted this as a requirement to fill all of the beds.

Think about that for moment.

34,000 people held in detention on a daily basis because of a line in an appropriations bill. Operating immigration detention on a quota system is a further injustice in a detention and deportation dragnet that flawed at its core. Reports of  due process rights, and retaliatory treatment in detention centers continue to surface. Last year more than 400,000 people were pushed through U.S. detention and deportation proceedings, the highest number on record.

And why? I’ve listened to the stories of immigrants who risked everything to come to the U.S. for a better life, forced to leave their homes because U.S. trade policies changed the economic reality in Mexico and Central America for millions of people. I am incredibly grateful to be a U.S. citizen, but I didn’t have to work for it. I was born here, which afforded me an immense amount of access and privilege. Why are we punishing people for wanting the same?

I was arrested for civil disobedience because I am outraged that my friends, members of our families and our communities are being treated as a number. As a problem to be dealt with. Immigrants are PEOPLE. Yet they’re being used to fill a quota, generating profits for private prison companies, and the majority of taxpaying Americans have no idea. In 2013, the detention budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) cost taxpayers $2.8 billion. In the same year, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group, two of the three corporations operating private detention facilities, each raked in more than $200 million in revenue from contracts with ICE to operate detention centers.

It is despicable that we’re using a quota to lock people up at an alarming rate while our immigration system remains in shambles. Rather than providing realistic and meaningful ways for people to come to the country legally, U.S. policy is disproportionately focused on finding and locking up immigrants. In this system, the only winners are private corporations. The bed quota is one aspect of this bloated system, and we can eliminate it this year.

I’m not saying you have to go out and get arrested, but we must call attention to this fiscally and morally irresponsible policy and demand an end to the quota.

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