“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” -Elie Wiesel
America, the land of the free, currently has the world’s largest immigration detention system that holds around half a million people.
Over two hundred of these detention centers are run by ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE has contracts with local governments and private prison companies such as GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America/CoreCivic. According to The Sentencing Project, CoreCivic and GeoGroup (GEO) have acquired billions of dollars in revenue from the for-profit prison and detention center systems in the U.S. and abroad since the 1980s.
Profiting from the suffering of others, GEO Group and CoreCivic have no real incentive to let anyone go free.
Conditions of the detention centers are abysmal at best. Crowded cages with often no place to sit, lit by fluorescent lights day and night. Even being denied basic hygiene tools such as soap or toothbrushes. Physician Dolly Lucio Sevier described in a medical declaration that, "The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities,”. People are being put in cages and denied basic human rights, if this were any other country I’m sure we might label these actions as barbaric. Our indifference to the suffering taking place under our noses is a choice. We are choosing to look the other way, looking away from the faces and voices of real people. It is easy to watch the news and see them only as a statistic, once you see the soul it might not be so easy.
In 2017 the book, Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum-Security Detention was published. This book is a collection of poems written by teenagers and children who were incarcerated in detention centers. These poems give a new piece of insight to the issues and fears immigrants and refugees face. One poem called “The Border”, asks the reader why we can’t all be treated equally since we are all human beings. It’s a moving piece and the books profits go towards a legal defense fund for the children.
a place the whole world goes
when we dream
and want to see our families happy
but they don’t let us reach the border
because we’re from other countries
and I ask myself why
if we’re all human beings
if we’re all the same
don’t we have papers too
because we’re all in the same world
have the same feelings
though our skin colors may different
but that doesn’t mean we’re not the same
it means that in this country in my country
there are lots of recists
to be white, to be black
doesn’t means we are
we have the same thoughts
the same goal
to walk for days across the desert
called to immigrate
There is a huge issue in America and there aren’t enough people who are actively working against it. Part of the problem may be that there is not enough information that people know about to access. Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”. This quote can apply to all of us. There are ways to get involved and fight against the injustices that ICE and privatized prisons have been carrying out.
Fortunately there are organizations like ACLU and DWN. ACLU has dedicated time to not just to immigrants and refugees, but other causes as well. They accept donations, memberships, and distribute information to help spread awareness. On March 16, 2020 ACLU sued ICE for the immigrants who were detained at Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. They were hoping for the release of immigrants who were at a higher risk of catching COVID-19. According to Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project,
“Immigrant detention centers are institutions that uniquely heighten the danger of disease transmission. In normal circumstances, ICE has proven time and again that it is unable to protect the health and safety of detained people. These are not normal circumstances, and the heightened risk of serious harm to people in detention from COVID-19 is clear. Public health experts have warned that failing to reduce the number of people detained — and in particular, failing to release those particularly vulnerable to the disease — endangers the lives of everyone in the detention facility, including staff, and the broader community.”
DWN is slightly different in the aspect that it works specifically to abolish detention centers in America. They also accept donations and memberships. They are active on Twitter as well with hashtags such as #DefundHate and #ReunifyNow. Dedicating time to getting as much information out to the public as possible.
It is crucial to get involved, otherwise these companies are going to get away with prioritizing money over human rights. It isn’t enough to do nothing, even if you aren’t personally locking people in cages, you may be supporting the ones who are. ICE, GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America/CoreCivic, and the people who support them, are relying on the passivism of American citizens. It’s time to start standing up and defending the rights of our fellow humans.
Dreaming America. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2021, from http://www.settlementhouse.us/dreaming-america
Detention statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2021, from https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/detention-statistics
US: New report shines spotlight on abuses and growth in immigrant detention Under Trump. (2020, October 28). Retrieved March 25, 2021, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/30/us-new-report-shines-spotlight-abuses-and-growth-immigrant-detention-under-trump
Cperez. (2021, March 30). #FirstTen to #CommunitiesNotCages. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/take-action/communitiesnotcages
Joung, M. (2019, July 12). What is happening at migrant detention centers? What to know. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://time.com/5623148/migrant-detention-centers-conditions/
ACLU sues ice for release of immigrants especially vulnerable To covid-19. (2020, March 17). Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-sues-ice-release-immigrants-especially-vulnerable-covid-19
Writer, S., & Lyons, S. (2019, August 22). Who profits from Migrant detention in the US? Retrieved April 17, 2021, from https://theglobepost.com/2019/08/19/profit-migrant-detention/
Basti, K. (2018, August 02). Capitalizing on mass incarceration: U.s. growth in private prisons. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/capitalizing-on-mass-incarceration-u-s-growth-in-private-prisons/