Immigration Detention, Advocacy, and the Faith Community
By Fred Kammer, S.J.
On October 13 and 14, JSRI joined six other organizations in presenting an in-depth
look at the realities and character of immigration detention in the United States, particularly in the South. The goal of the conference was to increase public awareness of the detention system and its impact on families and communities, show how faith communities are ministering to detained immigrants and their families, and explore how more progressive and just policies towards immigrants and detention can emerge. The detention of immigrants in the U.S. is a dire human rights issue that calls out to people of faith and other people of good will for a just response.
Since enactment of draconian immigration laws passed by Congress in 1996, the number of immigrants detained and deported every year has skyrocketed. During FY 2010, almost 363,000 immigrants were detained in a patchwork network of facilities—mostly penal institutions—in more than 250 locations run largely by county authorities or private contractors with little direct federal oversight at a cost of $1.77 billion. The number of immigrants detained and deported has skyrocketed 80 percent in recent years from 202,000 in 2002. The total number of detention beds grew 86 percent from 18,000 in FY 2003 to 33,400 detention beds in FY 2010. As of September 12, 2011, the Obama administration had deported 1.06 million persons. At the end of two terms, the number of persons deported during the George W. Bush administration totaled 1.57 million persons.