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Should we abolish immigration detentions?

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Jan 28, 2019
Categories: Health, News, Politics, Society, Other
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Should we abolish immigration detentions?

*Posts are my own and don’t reflect the views of publications I write & report for. *

This week, I reported on a 33-year-old Honduran woman who was over five months into her high-risk pregnancy when she was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at her marriage interview with her husband, a U.S. citizen. Her hypertension medication was withheld for nearly three days, putting her life and her unborn child at risk. Puerto’s doctor told her husband and lawyers that withholding the medication would jeopardize both her and her baby’s health after 48 hours. Had it not been for an army of supporters, including a congressman, celebrities, immigration lawyers & advocates, and the general public, Carmen Puerto Diaz may have still been behind bars, deported, and/or without access to life-saving medication. But what happens to other detainees who might be experiencing similar hardships?

It is unclear why Puerto didn’t receive her vital medication---nobody has given me a definitive answer yet. But Puerto’s lawyer said whatever the reason: “If ICE is unable or unwilling to provide adequate medical attention to pregnant women in their care, they should not continue detaining them,” said Johnna Main Bailey.

This raises the question of whether ICE can handle the detention and care of the sudden influx of detainees under the current administration.

According to Freedom for Immigrants: “In 2016, the Field Poll conducted an independent and nonpartisan survey in California. They found that 3 in 4 Californians believe that private immigrant prisons should be abolished. This same poll found that 68% of Californians favor community alternatives over incarceration. “   

The organization also points out: “In most countries, including the United States, immigration detention is a civil form of confinement; people are not being held for the commission of a crime. In some cases, people held in immigration detention have not even violated a civil law.”

U.S. immigration has been a complex political debate for decades as policymakers consider economic, security, and humanitarian challenges. 

Throughout the Obama administration, ICE’s enforcement priority on undocumented immigrants was those with criminal convictions. In 2016, ICE issued a policy advising against the detention of pregnant women. It creates serious health risks and detention facilities are not equipped to manage the expectant mothers’ needs. 

The present administration has made it clear that all immigrants are an enforcement priority, even pregnant women.  It also has given ICE officials the authority to determine the release of pregnant women on a case-by-case basis.

Question:  Should we abolish immigrant detentions centers (government-run and/or privately-managed)? Why/why not? If you think detention centers should be abolished, what are some alternatives?

For my article on Puerto’s case: https://www.thedailybeast.com/ice-jailed-pregnant-woman-and-couldve-killed-her-unborn-child
Check out question 16: https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/hard-questions/
Photo credit: https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/immigrants-rights-and-detention/working-uncover-how-ice-treats-pregnant-women

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