Pressley Joins Omar, Colleagues in Calling for Executive Action on ICE Detention

March 15, 2021
Press Release
Lawmakers Urge Biden Admin. to Phase Out ICE Contracts with State, County and Local Jails and Prisons

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and 22 colleagues on a letter to President Biden’s Director of Domestic Policy, Susan Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Biden administration to issue an additional Executive Order announcing a plan to phase out contracts between ICE and state, county, and local jails and prisons.

Immigration detention facilities, many of them operating through arrangements with local jails and prisons, have played host to serious and repeated allegations of abuse, including allegations of sexual assault, violations of religious freedom, medical neglect, and the punitive use of solitary confinement. In the past year, they have also become epicenters of COVID outbreaks, putting both detainees and staff at risk.

“Financial incentives have fueled the expansion of immigrant detention centers and compounded our nation’s growing mass incarceration crisis. We must dismantle and rebuild our current system, which criminalizes our communities, and rebuild it to center the dignity and humanity of all people,” Rep. Pressley said. “This reconstruction begins with the elimination of ICE contracts between state, county and local jails and prisons.”

“Phasing out DHS contracts with localities for immigration detention is a much-needed step toward restoring basic humanity to our immigration system.,” said Rep. Omar. “We must truly sever the financial incentives causing the expansion of an unnecessary and abuse-ridden system of mass incarceration. Now is our chance to stop this abusive system from causing more unnecessary harm.”

“[N]ow is the time to act to rein in a system of detention built on a disproven myth that immigrants fail to appear in court,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter. “Indeed, several states, including California, New Jersey, and Maryland, have already taken steps to phase out both public and private detention. The federal government should follow suit. We urge the Biden-Harris administration to immediately enact an additional Executive Order to phase out contracts or agreements between ICE and/or the USMS with states, counties, and municipalities for the purposes of immigration detention.”

The letter was signed by Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Ed. D., Cori Bush, André Carson, Gerald E. Connolly, Jim Cooper, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Raúl M. Grijalva, Adriano Espaillat, Pramila Jayapal, Barbara Lee, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn B. Maloney, James P. McGovern, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, Jan Schakowsky, Rashida Tlaib, Ritchie Torres, Nydia M. Velázquez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Bonnie Watson Coleman.

“The United States’ immigration detention apparatus cannot function without the complicity of states and localities who contract with ICE to cruelly and needlessly detain people for nothing more than their immigration status. Just as in privately operated detention facilities, conditions in state and local jails and prisons used for the purposes of immigration detention are abhorrent. And, just as within privately operated detention, localities are motivated to open and expand these contracts due to an underlying profit incentive. We thank Representative Ilhan Omar for calling on the Biden administration to take executive action to exit these contracts,” said Christina Fialho, Executive Director at Freedom for Immigrants.  

Full text of the letter is available here

In January, Rep. Pressley and Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Karen Bass (CA-37) led their colleagues in introducing the New Way Forward Act, a landmark piece of legislation to restore fairness and dignity into our immigration laws and address injustice and systemic racism in the U.S. immigration system. The legislation would prevent, among other provisions, state or local law enforcement from investigating, apprehending, transporting, or detaining undocumented immigrants or otherwise assist in doing so.

Last week, Rep. Pressley re-introduced the People’s Justice Guarantee, a comprehensive, decarceration-focused resolution that outlines a framework for a fair, equitable and just legal system. The resolution calls for prohibiting private companies from profiting from immigration detention centers, and for the dismantling and rebuilding of a compassionate, just and humane immigration system.

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