FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2022
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Immigration detention in the United States dropped significantly once the COVID-19 pandemic started—but under the Biden administration, detentions are surging. Book-ins to detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBP) officers increased by 102% between 2020 to 2021.
With the Department of Homeland Security slated to spend some $1.8 billion on detention beds for the 2022 fiscal year, a network of migrant-led organizations across the United States is launching the #FreedomForAll campaign, calling on the Biden administration and Congress to end the mass incarceration of people who migrate.
Under #FreedomForAll, Alianza Americas, a coalition of 55 migrant-led organizations across the U.S., and Presente.org, the largest Latinx digital organizing platform in the country, are petitioning the U.S. government to abolish immigration detention and defund private prisons (where the majority of detained migrants are held). The coalition is also calling for the creation of a universal legal representation program, guaranteeing all those who show up to immigration court the right to legal counsel. It’s estimated that such a program would only cost some 11% of the current DHS detention bed budget.
As part of the campaign, migrant leaders from over 40 states are calling on the Biden administration to extend a January 2021 executive order, ending the use of private prisons for all people in federal criminal custody, including immigration detention centers. Additionally, migrant leaders are demanding that federal dollars — including COVID-19 relief funds — no longer be funneled towards prison construction projects, and instead be re-invested in social services and other initiatives that benefit communities.
“Even though the United States champions freedom as fundamental to our national identity, for too long now we’ve run this massive detention apparatus, locking up those who’ve come here seeking protection and a better life,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas. “We need laws and policies that uphold freedom for all, including people who migrate.”
“Wasting billions of dollars each year on immigration detention and privatized incarceration is the worst kind of racket, dangerous, corrupt, and inhumane. Our public funds should go toward guaranteeing universal legal representation for those in deportation proceedings, greater health access, better housing and education, and other programs for communities in need,” said Matt Nelson, director of Presente.org.
“People who’ve migrated to the United States bring incredible benefits to their communities. They should be welcomed and protected, not criminalized and incarcerated because of their migration status,” said Carolina Ortiz, a community activist with COPAL, a grassroots organization that defends migrant communities in southern Minnesota.
“People who migrate have the right to seek protection and regularize their immigration status, without being detained or locked up. President Biden campaigned on investing in alternatives to detention and ending use of private prisons for immigration detention, but all we’ve seen so far are broken promises,” said Yaquelin López, co-founder of Women Working Together.
Take action to pressure the Biden administration and Members of Congress to guarantee #FreedomForAll by signing the petition. Additional #FreedomForAll campaign materials will follow in the coming weeks.
Alianza Americas is the premier transnational advocacy network of Latin American migrant-led organizations working in the United States, across the Americas, and globally to create an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way of life for communities across North, Central, and South America.