The August 2016 announcement by the US Department of Justice that it was stopping the use of private contract prisons is a step in the right direction in improving the conditions of incarcerated immigrants, said David Hernández of Mount Holyoke College. But the changes shouldn’t stop there, he said.
In a recent column in the NACLA Report on the Americas, Hernández, an assistant professor of Spanish, Latina/o, and Latin American studies and an expert on immigration policy, called for the complete overhauling of the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration detention practices.
More than 250 public and private facilities across the country hold over 400,000 immigrants annually, including undocumented immigrants, legal permanent residents, asylum seekers, and increasing numbers of children, said Hernandez. He described the conditions as “horrifying” and the medical care as “substandard and dangerous.”
“A single ‘crime’—usually unlawful entry or reentry—can initiate a migrant’s imprisonment and later detention,” Hernández wrote, noting that prosecutions of those crossing the US border without authorization are on the rise. “They represent an unrecognized form of double jeopardy for migrants and double profitability for private jailers.”