Bishop Minerva Carcaño, president of the GCORR Board of Directors and resident Bishop in the Los Angeles Episcopal Area, issued a statement speaking out against the detention of immigrants in America–including the abuse and intimidation of detainees as well as the use of detention centers to manage a broken immigration policy–as she calls for comprehensive immigration reform.
Statement of Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
of the Los Angeles Area of The United Methodist Church
Our detention system in this country is a moral outrage. We now live as complicit partners with prison corporations that have negotiated with states across this country to run detention centers in states that will contract with them to keep detention centers filled to 90 percent capacity for 20 years. Detaining people has become big business in this country; immoral big business.
These detention centers, which include jails, prisons and purpose-specific facilities, are filled with the poor and particularly with immigrants. The detention of immigrants is indiscriminant. There are immigrants who are being held in detention centers today who have their visas to be in this country, others who are asylum seekers or even U.S. legal residents. Their rights are being violated. But even an immigrant who is undocumented has basic human rights that should be respected.
I have met and counseled with immigrants who have been in these detention centers who time and time again have shared with me the trauma of being fed so little that even after eating the sparse amounts of food they are given, their stomachs growl. One young man seeking asylum spoke to me of being kept up all night by guards banging on the cell bars; an intimidation tactic that broke his spirit and made him fearful. This young man has a strong legal case for asylum, but now doubts that he has come to a country that practices justice.
One immigrant I met not that long ago had been picked up for traffic violations. He had been in this country for 36 years, brought here as a child. He had a family, a job, a home, a community he loved. He was taken to a detention center so far away from his family that his family did not even know what had happened to him. He had been in detention for a year and a half when I met him. He was desperate.
The practice of detaining immigrants in detention centers for long periods of time undermines our values of family and community. What are we to say to a child whose mother has been detained and imprisoned at a detention center hundreds of miles away only because she was trying to feed and clothe that child? I am amazed at the courage of the children of immigrant parents who are detained in detention centers without an end date to their detention. But I also worry about what we are teaching these children and all our children about the value of human life. The use of detention centers to address our broken immigration policies is a moral outrage that is undermining families and communities all over this country.
I believe that today’s common practice of using detention centers to manage a broken immigration policy is a contradiction to our country’s held values of due process and basic justice. We must not allow the plight of the poor or the immigrant to go unattended if we are to call ourselves a people of justice. We must press forth for a just, fair and comprehensive immigration reform in this country and reforming how detention centers are used and administered is a critical part of the necessary reform.