America’s immigration detention practices undermine the fundamental principles of due process and fairness, and require immediate systemic reform. Annually, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unnecessarily detains more than 400,000 people, including asylum seekers and other extremely vulnerable immigrants. Many detainees are held for prolonged periods despite the fact that they have strong ties to the United States and pose no threat to public safety. The Obama administration’s massive expansion of family detention began in the summer of 2014 and will incarcerate thousands of children and mothers this year. This practice is a due process and humanitarian disaster and must end.
Detention is extremely expensive, costing American taxpayers $2 billion per year. Family detention alone costs $343 per individual per day. Proven alternatives to detention, by contrast, cost between 17 cents and $17 per day. Detention should be a last resort, used only when other means of supervision are not feasible, and only after a truly individualized assessment of someone’s public safety and flight risk. Alternatives to detention should be used to reduce our reliance on costly institutional detention, and never as an alternative to release.