Of all the malfunctioning parts in the country’s broken-down immigration machinery, probably the most indefensible is the detention system. This is the vast network of jails and prisons where suspected immigration violators are held while awaiting a hearing and possible deportation. Immigrant detainees are not criminal defendants or convicts serving sentences. They are locked up merely because the government wants to make sure they show up in immigration court.
Detention is intended to help enforce the law, but, in practice, the system breeds cruelty and harm, and squanders taxpayer money. It denies its victims due process of law, punishing them far beyond the scale of any offense. It shatters families and traumatizes children. As a system of mass incarceration — particularly of women and children fleeing persecution in Central America — it is immoral.
Oh please: to the Left, just about anything can be classified as “persecution” — except, of course, actual persecution. Maybe the Times ought to take a look at its formerly beloved, and now loathed, state of Israel to see how they handle illegal invaders. But hey, what could go wrong with looser standards and less border protection?
Ending mass detention would not mean allowing unauthorized immigrants to disappear. Supervised or conditional release, ankle bracelets and other monitoring technologies, plus community-based support with intensive case management, can work together to make the system more humane. But neither Congress nor the Homeland Security Department has embraced these approaches, which would be far cheaper than locking people up.
No one can expect such reforms soon from Congress, which by law requires the Department of Homeland Security to maintain, at all times, 34,000 detention beds, no matter the need. But the problem has to be acknowledged: the inhumanity and wasted expense of imprisoning people who could be working and providing for their families. The American immigration system should reflect our values. The detention system does not do that.
Au contraire, it does precisely that. Remember, when you see a Leftist appeal to American “values,” you know you’re in the presence of Alinsky Rule #4. Act accordingly.