By Caitlin Patler, Jackie Gonzalez, and Hamid Yazdan Panah, JD.
Authors: Caitlin Patler, PhD, University of California, Davis; Jackie Gonzalez, JD, Immigrant Defense Advocates; and Hamid Yazdan Panah, JD, Immigrant Defense Advocates.
This issue brief reviews research on immigration detention, with a particular focus on conditions of confinement and the pains of imprisonment experienced by detained people in the United States. It then discusses federal and state actions to save lives and uphold human dignity in both the shorter-term timeline (of the pandemic) and the longer-term.
It finds that the COVID-19 pandemic exposes a federal immigration detention system of imprisonment without trial that has long failed to properly ensure the health and wellbeing of detained people—and with little-to-no accountability. In the long term, we must work to end this broken system and prioritize the humane treatment of immigrants. In the short-term, the most immediate, life-saving solution is to release detained people, starting immediately with anyone at risk for severe illness. State lawmakers must also do their part to ensure ICE detention centers are no longer routinely violating the very minimal standards set forth in their own contracts, let alone human rights. California’s recent legislative changes may provide a case study for the rest of the nation.