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Velazquez Wants Private Prisons Out of Immigration Enforcement

Velázquez Wants Private Prisons Out of Immigration Enforcement
June 20, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C.­­ –During debate on a funding bill for the Bureau of Prisons, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) offered an amendment signaling Congress’ disapproval of private facilities being used to house immigrant detainees. 

Due to a “current surge in illegal border crossings,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) partnered with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to house immigrants in these private complexes. While BOP currently houses 11 percent of all detainees in facilities run by private contractors, immigrant detainees are increasingly comprising that percentage. As a result, immigrant communities are increasingly exposed to unsafe and unhealthy conditions.

“Private prisons have a well-known history of putting profit before those they detain, and the federal government should play no role in this problematic narrative when it comes to American citizens or vulnerable immigrant communities,” said Velázquez. “Immigrants, regardless of status, need be treated with dignity and respect, and private prisons undermine our efforts to ensure humane enforcement.”

While Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said the use of BOP facilities is a “temporary measure,” the government now allocates $2 billion to private prison facilities, a funding measure which would continue jeopardizing immigrant health and safety without Congressional opposition.

“My amendment puts all agencies on notice that taxpayer dollars should not be financing the private prison industrial complex, especially when these facilities are housing asylum seekers who’ve just fled natural disasters or violence areas,” said Velázquez. “I stand with my colleagues in saying that we need to shut private prisons down once and for all.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Velázquez led a letter with sixteen Members of Congress to preclude private prison facilities from being utilized in immigration enforcement. The letter, supported by Make the Road New York, urged the insertion of critical language relating to the enforcement of immigrants. It also referenced bank allies, namely JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, committing to stopping all financing of private prisons. A full text of that letter can be found online here.

Velázquez’s amendment is cosponsored by Democratic Reps.: Adriano Espaillat (NY), Jesús Garcia (IL), Ilhan Omar (MN), Rashida Tlaib (MI), and Ayanna Pressley (MA). The amendment was approved “en bloc” with several other amendments and was adopted as part of H.R. 3055, a larger funding bill, which is expected to pass next week. 

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