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Jayapal, Booker, and Smith Introduce Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and U.S. Representative Adam Smith (WA-09) today reintroduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, transformative legislation that ends the inhumane conditions of detention centers and protects the civil and human rights of immigrants. 

“There’s no question that our immigration system is broken,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act urgently reforms the alarming injustices of a broken, for-profit immigration detention system by ending the use of private detention facilities altogether, repealing mandatory detention, and prohibiting family detention while also restoring due process and increasing oversight, accountability, and transparency measures. This is a measure that will go a long way to restore humanity and dignity to the immigration system.”

“Our immigration system has allowed for the unjust treatment of immigrants and stripped them of their humanity and due process. We must respect and protect the basic rights of immigrants detained in the United States. I am proud to reintroduce this bill that would ensure our immigration system aligns with our country’s core values,” said Senator Booker.

“We cannot wait any longer to reform our broken immigration system to ensure it is humane and just,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.). “The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would overhaul our immigration detention system by ending mandatory detention, promoting community-based alternatives, and ending the use of private, for-profit detention centers that have a shameful history of prioritizing their own profits over the civil and human rights of children and families. This bill is a crucial step forward to bringing due process back to our immigration system and centering the humanity and dignity of people who come to our country to build a better life. I thank my colleagues Congresswoman Jayapal and Senator Booker for their leadership on this issue.”

The legislation would inject much-needed justice and oversight in the American immigration system by taking steps to:

  • Repeal mandatory detention; 
  • Prohibit the detention of families and children in family detention;
  • Phase-out the use of private detention facilities and jails over a three-year period
  • Create a presumption of release and impose a higher burden of proof to detain primary caregivers and vulnerable populations, including asylum seekers, pregnant women, LGBTQ individuals, survivors of torture or gender-based violence, and people under age 21;
  • Prohibit the detention of anyone under age 18 in a facility operated or contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
  • Require DHS to establish civil detention standards that provide, at minimum, the level of protection in the American Bar Association’s Civil Immigration Detention Standards;
  • Mandate the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct unannounced inspections with meaningful penalties for failure to comply with standards.

“Women’s Refugee Commission is grateful to Representatives Jayapal and Smith and Senator Booker for their leadership in introducing the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act,” said Katharina Obser, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at Women’s Refugee Commission. “For too long, Women’s Refugee Commission has documented how current detention practices harm women and others seeking protection and separate them from their families and communities. This important legislation instead prioritizes community-based alternatives for those who need support in successfully navigating their immigration case. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act lays the foundation for a fundamentally different approach to how we treat immigrants, and is critical to an immigration system that centers justice and dignity.”

“For years, people in detention, their loved ones, and communities have exposed system-wide abuse and negligence in immigration detention, demanding to free people and shut ICE facilities down for good,” said Hillary Li, Policy Counsel at Detention Watch Network. “The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act responds to these community calls to address this inhumane, discriminatory, and unnecessary system. Positive changes made by the bill, like ending mandatory detention and eliminating the profit motive that has grown the role of the private prison companies, will significantly reduce the scale of – and our reliance on – ICE detention. We are grateful for the Representatives and Senators leading and supporting this effort.”

“AILA welcomes the leadership of Representatives Jayapal (D-WA), Smith (D-WA), and Senator Booker (D-NJ) who have introduced the ‘Dignity for Detained Immigrants’ legislation in the House and Senate,” said Jeremy McKinney, President, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). “This crucial measure would shift the government’s focus away from detention and towards humane and effective alternatives, such as case management programs that rely on community-based organizations to provide immigrants resources they need to better prepare for their immigration cases. There is a better way and this legislation helps to get us there.”

“The abuse, medical neglect, and human rights violations endemic to the ICE detention system have been fueled by our nation’s reliance on private prison companies, driven by greed and profit, and by laws that mandate detention,” said Maribel Hernández Rivera, Deputy National Political Director at the American Civil Liberties Union. “The ACLU is grateful to the lawmakers leading on this bill for fighting for an approach to immigration that replaces greed, cruelty, and impunity with dignity, humanity, and fairness.” 

“The U.S. immigration detention system is the largest in the world, depriving tens of thousands of immigrants of their freedom and rights on any given day. Black immigrants and immigrants of color are disproportionately harmed by this intrinsically abusive detention system, and the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would be a crucial first step in addressing this national shame. Critically, this legislation would end unjust policies that further the abuse and exploitation of those in ICE custody, including solitary confinement, no-bond detention, and the use of for-profit detention centers. This Act will bring us one step closer to realizing an immigration system rooted in racial equity, dignity, and fairness for all people,” said Andrea Carcamo, Policy Director, Freedom for Immigrants.

“The National Immigrant Justice Center thanks members of Congress for supporting the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act in solidarity with detained immigrants who have been subjected to medical abuse, deplorable conditions, and the abusive and excessive use of solitary confinement while incarcerated in a system where these endemic human rights violations occur everyday with impunity. This legislation takes overdue steps toward an immigration system with greater humanity,” said Nayna Gupta, Associate Director of Policy, National Immigrant Justice Center.

“Amnesty International USA thanks Representatives Jayapal and Smith and Senator Booker for their continued leadership to address the human rights crisis in the U.S. immigration detention system,” said Amy Fischer, Director of Refugee and Migrant Rights, Amnesty International USA. “The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is a critical bill to address the deadly and abusive immigration detention system by imbedding due process into detention decisions to significantly reduce the number of people subject to detention, establishing critical oversight to address the long history of cruel conditions in detention, and investing in community based alternatives to detention for those that need it. Congress must act to restore human rights to our broken immigration system, and the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is a significant start.”

This legislation has become even more urgent following reports that the Biden Administration is considering restarting family detention. Jayapal has been an outspoken advocate against family detention, leading more than 100 members of the Democratic Caucus in calling on the Administration to not restart the program.

She has also worked to ensure that programs that could reduce reliance on immigrant detention, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP), are fully funded.

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is sponsored by Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Adam Smith (WA-09), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Becca Balint (VT-AL), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-08), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Brendan F. Boyle (PA-02), Shontel M. Brown (OH-11), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Cori Bush (MO-01), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Troy A. Carter (LA-02), Greg Casar (TX-35), Sean Casten (IL-06), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Judy Chu (CA-28), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Jason Crow (CO-06), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Debbie Dingell (MI-06), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Valerie Foushee (NC-04), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), John Garamendi (CA-08), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Al Green (TX-09), Jim Himes (CT-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Glenn Ivey (MD-04), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), Robin L. Kelly (IL-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Summer Lee (PA-12), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03), Mike Levin (CA-49), Ted W. Lieu (CA-36), Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), Doris Matsui (CA-07), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Morgan McGarvey (KY-03), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Gregory W. Meeks (NY-05), Grace Meng (NY-06), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-31), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Terri A. Sewell (AL-07), Brad Sherman (CA-32), Darren Soto (FL-09), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Eric Swalwell (CA-14), Mark Takano (CA-39), Shri Thanedar (MI-13), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Dina Titus (NV-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), David Trone (MD-06), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Nikema Williams (GA-05), and Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24) and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is endorsed by African Communities Together; African Human Rights Coalition; American Civil Liberties Union; American Humanist Association; American Immigration Lawyers Association; Americans for Immigrant Justice ; Amnesty International USA; Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC; ASISTA Immigration Assistance; Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) ; Bend the Arc: Jewish Action; Cameroon Advocacy Network; CASA; Center for Constitutional Rights; Center for Gender & Refugee Studies; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Center for Victims of Torture; Church World Service; Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center; Coloradans for Immigrant Rights; Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP); Community Change Action; Detention Watch Network; #DetentionKills Transparency Initiative; First Focus Campaign for Children; Freedom for Immigrants; Friends Committee on National Legislation ; Government Accountability Project; Grassroots Leadership; Haitian Bridge Alliance; Human Rights First; Human Rights Watch; Immigrant Justice Network ; Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC); Immigration Equality Action Fund; Immigration Hub; Immigration Law & Justice Network; Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH); International Refugee Assistance Project; Justice Action Center; Justice in Motion; Justicia Digna; Latin America Working Group; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; Muslim Advocates; National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR); National Domestic Workers Alliance; National Immigrant Justice Center; National Immigration Law Center; National Immigration Project (NIPNLG); National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice ; National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; National Partnership for New Americans; Oasis Legal Services; Oxfam America; Quixote Center; Refugees International; Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights; Showing Up for Racial Justice; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC); Tahirih Justice Center; Tsuru for Solidarity; UndocuBlack Network; Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice ; Vera Institute of Justice; Voice for Refuge Action Fund; Washington Office on Latin America; Women’s Refugee Commission; Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights; The Advocates for Human Rights; Alianza Sacramento; American Friends Service Committee, Colorado; Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus; Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta; Black and Brown United in Action ; The Bronx Defenders; Carolina Migrant Network; Central American Resource Center of Northern CA – CARECEN SF; Central Vermont Refugee Action Network; Cleveland Jobs with Justice; CLUE VC; Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA); Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC); Community Asylum Seekers Project; Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible; Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services Inc; Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Washington DC; El Refugio; Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project; Families for Freedom; Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project; Georgia Immigration Collaborative; Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Illinois Community for Displaced Immigrants; Immigrant Defenders Law Center; Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity; Interfaith Welcome Coalition – San Antonio; ISLA: Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy; Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA; Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center; Legal Aid Justice Center; Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition; Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants; Make the Road New York; The Mami Chelo Foundation; Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition; Michigan Immigrant Rights Center; Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project; New York Immigration Coalition; NorCal Resist; Northwest Immigrant Rights Project; Orange County Rapid Response Network; Pangea Legal Services; People’s Budget OC; Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network; Transforming Justice Orange County; Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center.