Challenge U.S. Immigrant Detention and Deportation Policies
The U.S. government detained nearly 400,000 people in immigration custody in some 350 facilities at an annual cost of more than $1.7 billion in 2009. The number of detention beds has grown to more than 33,000, with construction of more facilities underway. These numbers have increased under the Obama Administration. According to Detention Watch Network visitor's discussion guide,
This crisis is not limited to the undocumented—long-term green-cardholders with minor offenses, survivors of trafficking and domestic violence, and those fleeing persecution also are detained and deported by the thousands. Over eighty percent of detained immigrants go through the immigration system with no lawyer. Many are denied their fair day in court owing to mandatory and arbitrary detention laws and policies that severely limit judicial discretion in immigration cases. While detained, immigrants face horrific human rights abuses, including mistreatment by guards, solitary confinement, the denial of medical attention and limited or no access to their families, lawyers and the outside world. In many cases, these conditions have proven fatal: since 2003, a reported 107 people have died in immigration custody.
At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security is increasing the role of local police in immigration enforcement and signing accords under ICE ACCESS programs (such as 287G, Secure Communities, Criminal Alien Program) that involve local police without sufficient training or oversight. This has led to an increase in racial profiling in many communities.
The United Methodist Church affirms the human rights of all immigrants regardless of status. Resolution 3281 of The Book of Resolution of The United Methodist Church (2008), "Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S." and international human rights standards, including the United Nations Convention on Migrant Rights, affirm that human rights are inherent and do not stop at the border. The church calls for an end to all detention and deportation until the broken immigration system is fixed (Resolution ¶3281).
United Methodist Women is particularly concerned about the welfare of women, youth and children facing harsh detention and deportation policies as families are torn apart. In May 2010 more than 2,000 United Methodist Women members and allies marched at Assembly in St. Louis, Mo., to challenge detention and deportation policies and call for due process and an end to racial profiling. United Methodist Women have engaged in vigils from Raymondville, Texas, to Nashville, Tenn., to New York City to challenge these policies. United Methodist Women members signed more than 3,000 postcards to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano calling for dignity—not detention—in immigration enforcement policy, and in September 2010 United Methodist Women leaders delivered them to Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington, D.C.
What you can do:
- View the film The Visitor (2007), a warm and touching feature film about detention policy, and have a group discussion. For a discussion guide, visit ActiveVoice.net.
- Find out if your state or local police plan to sign an ICE ACCESS program involving local police in immigration enforcement. Write letters to the police chief, city council or governor opposing these deals. For a toolkit on challenging ICE ACCESS contracts, visit Uncover the Truth.
- Download the United Methodist Women postcard to Janet Napolitano and circulate in your unit. Send signed copies to the Women's Division and we'll send them to Ms. Napolitano.
- Join Detention Watch Network's "Dignity Not Detention" campaign to stop expansion of detention and demand due process for immigrants. You'll get updates about how to get involved locally and nationally.
- Consider holding a vigil at a detention center. (See United Methodist Women's How to: Organize a Public Witness for Immigrant and Civil Rights").
Monitor immigrant human rights violations appearing in your local newspaper. Send the news clips to HURRICANE, the Human Rights Immigrant Community Action Network, at:
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, 310 8th Street, Suite 303, Oakland, CA 94607. This partner organization compiles these incidents into an annual report. See www.nnirr.org for recent reports.
- Speak out against incidents of racial profiling by police in your community. Write a letter to the editor or make a statement to the media from your United Methodist Women unit.
- Learn more about U.S. detention policies. Read "Deportation 101" from Families for Freedom.
- Find out if there is a detention center in your community and learn about conditions. An interactive map of detention centers is available at the Detention Watch Network.
- Visit people in detention. (See United Methodist Women's How to: Visit Migrants in Detention in Your Community")
- Get in touch with other groups focused on enforcement and detention in your community.
United Methodist Women
Immigrant/Civil Rights Initiative
777 United Nations Plaza,
11th Floor, New York, NY 10017