One issue I have become increasingly concerned about is immigrant detention. Last year I became more aware of the issue having read Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m dying detailing the horrific treatment of her Haitian uncle in an immigrant detention facility in Miami. Then I watched the film, The Visitor, which addressed immigrant detention in NYC. Both creative works made an impression on me so much that I have followed the detention issue. It is timely because much has been made of the growing Latino population in the prisons, and earlier this year, Seneca even wrote about the issue in regards to immigration violations.
There are three Latinos on the House Homeland Security Committee: Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Rep. Henry Cuellar, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. I have been waiting for one of them to make a speech like the one that Rep. Jared Polis made last week on the House Floor. Check it out for yourself here:
As the immigration reform debate heats up, we are starting to hear more about detention reform from Congressional members, including Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s expressing satisfaction of seeing more funds requested for the development of alternatives to detention. I wonder what exactly the alternative to existing detention will be like. The Democrats have already caved into an extension of the controversial 287G program, which deputizes local law enforcement agents to act as immigration officers. This program has emboldened Sheriff Joe Arpaio, aka “The 21st Century Bull Connor” in Arizona.
In April, the NY Times has also reported on the lack of accountability and oversight in immigrant detention facilities, specifically regarding detainee deaths noting that:
“No central body is required to publicly keep track of deaths in custody in the fragmented detention system. No independent inquiry is mandated. The House recently passed a bill that would require states that receive certain federal funds to report all deaths in custody to their attorneys general. But the measure has yet to be taken up in the Senate, where similar legislation stalled last fall.”
I commend Rep. Polis for his remarks regarding detention reform. Now I hope that Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Rep. Henry Cuellar, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan make similar statements. Lives are literally on the line.