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Opinion: It's time to remember what 'asylum' really means

April 6, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 20.6%. 1 min read.

A member of the International Organization for Migration takes a child's temperature before crossing the border into El Paso, Texas at the Leona Vicario shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. After waiting months and sometimes years in Mexico, people seeking asylum in the United States are being allowed into the country as they wait for courts to decide on their cases, unwinding one of the Trump administration's signature immigration policies that President Joe Biden vowed to end. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Amnesty International USA Advocacy Director Joanne Lin write it's time we end the use of expansive detention we've seen from prior administrations. And Congress must lead the way by passing the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, a measure that ends the use of private detention facilities.

As asylum seekers came to the United States to flee violence and persecution, the Trump administration detained upwards of 50,000 people (a figure Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed), prolonged the detention of families and exercised authority over a system that saw an uptick in deaths in detention -- which the House Oversight Committee determined was often due to inadequate medical care.

With over 14,000 immigrants and asylum seekers still detained by ICE, simply rolling back previous administrations' harmful policies won't be enough: We need transformative change that restores humanity, dignity, respect and fairness to the entire immigration detention system.

According to Freedom for Immigrants, a national visitation network working to end detention, the vast majority -- over 70% of people in ICE custody -- are detained in facilities owned or managed by private corporations.

Not surprisingly, several private detention facilities that have received large numbers of immigrants and asylum seekers have seen their profits soar over a four-year period.

That's why we championed -- in conjunction with Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington -- the introduction of the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, a transformative measure that ends the use of private detention facilities.

Overall, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would dramatically reduce the number of people held in detention, recognizing that the vast majority of immigrants simply do not need to be detained.

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