The letter comes after multiple investigations into private detention facilities revealed substandard living conditions for detained people, under-staffing, and deaths of people in U.S. custody
WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) led more than 100 members of Congress in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) calling on ICE to stop its use of for-profit prisons, conduct a review of its facilities, and suspend its detention expansion.
Multiple investigations into these private prisons found substandard living conditions for detained people, crowding, under-staffing, and even deaths of people in custody. And while President Biden issued an Executive Order ending the Department of Justice’s use of for-profit prisons, it does not apply to immigration detention facilities.
“Studies consistently show that most people are best equipped to successfully complete their removal proceedings when they have full access to the support of their families and communities and legal representation,” said the lawmakers. “As you review the detention system, we ask that you halt the expansion of ICE detention and urge you to embrace community-based alternatives to detention.”
The immigration detention system is one that has consistently lacked accountability and transparency. Multiple studies and accounts have uncovered the poor conditions detained people have had to endure. A detention center in Irwin County, Georgia came under fire for their reported unnecessary and non-consensual medical procedures performed on women. Jayapal co-led a letter to DHS calling on them to immediately investigate and respond to these accounts. She had also visited the facility in September 2020 before returning to Congress to successfully pass her resolution condemning the unwanted, unnecessary medical procedures performed on women without their full, informed consent.
Despite all these reports, ICE continues to expand its detention system at taxpayers’ expense, including its use of for-profit prisons.
The letter was signed by U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Raúl M. Grijalva, Jason Crow, Alma S. Adams, Ph.D., Nanette Diaz Barragán, Karen Bass, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Anthony G. Brown, Julia Brownley, Cori Bush, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Joaquin Castro, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Judy Chu, David N. Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Yvette D. Clarke, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Steve Cohen, Gerald E. Connolly, Jim Cooper, J. Luis Correa, Danny K. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Diana DeGette, Suzan DelBene, Mark DeSaulnier, Debbie Dingell, Lloyd Doggett, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, John Garamendi, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Sylvia R. Garcia, Jimmy Gomez, Jahana Hayes, Steven Horsford, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sara Jacobs, Hakeem Jeffries, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Mondaire Jones, Kaiali‘i Kahele, Robin L. Kelly, Ro Khanna, Derek Kilmer, Ann Kirkpatrick, Rick Larsen, Brenda L. Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Andy Levin, Ted W. Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn B. Maloney, Doris Matsui, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Gregory W. Meeks, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Marie Newman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Frank Pallone Jr., Donald M. Payne, Jr., Mark Pocan, Katie Porter, Ayanna Pressley, David Price, Mike Quigley, Jamie Raskin, Raul Ruiz, M.D. , Bobby L. Rush, Linda T. Sánchez, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jan Schakowsky, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Terri A. Sewell, Elissa Slotkin, Adam Smith, Melanie Stansbury, Marilyn Strickland, Mark Takano, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Paul D. Tonko, Norma J. Torres, Ritchie Torres, Lori Trahan, Juan Vargas, Nydia M. Velázquez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Nikema Williams, Frederica S. Wilson, and John Yarmuth.
Jayapal has been a champion for ending the use of private, for-profit prisons, leading the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to end the use of for-profit immigration detention, repeal mandatory detention, stop family detention, and prohibit solitary confinement.
American Immigration Lawyers Association, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Detention Watch Network, National Immigrant Justice Center, and National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) endorsed the letter.
A copy of the letter is available here.