Immigration detention facilities have become a huge industry – and a profitable one — in the U.S., just as the prison system overall has. Here in New York State, as in facilities across the country, serious and multiple reports of abuse and mistreatment of detainees (including lack of medical care) have continued to surface in these increasingly overcrowded detention centers.
A proposed state law called the Dignity Not Detention Act would put an end to contracts between government entities like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private companies to detain immigrants facing possible deportation. It would also prohibit any private detention center from operating in the state.
New York isn’t the first state to take this step. California was the first state to ban these facilities in 2017. New Jersey banned them last year. Other states have variations on our Dignity Not Detention Act.
“The only way to fix it is to end it”
New York currently has four detention centers. The Batavia Service Processing Center had the most detainees as of last month, and a facility in Orange County was second. After members of the New York City Council recently toured the Orange County facility to see conditions for themselves, one member said, “The only way to fix it is to end it, because no amount of finessing, accreditation or any language can really hide what is happening.”
It could be some time before we know whether the bill will make it through both houses of the state legislature and is signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul. However, momentum for getting rid of these facilities seems to be building across the country. Meanwhile, if you have a loved one who is in a detention center facing deportation, it’s important to know that having experienced legal guidance can make a big difference.