The United States runs the largest immigration prison system in the world. This so-called “detention” system jails half a million people a year. Some are undocumented, others have green cards, and many have come here seeking asylum. For the most part, they have no right to an appointed lawyer, no right to ask a judge for release on bond, and often no right to a deportation hearing at all. And most jailed immigrants are held in for-profit prisons, despite the progress made in reducing private prisons in the criminal legal system. Recognizing these realities leads us to an uncomfortable truth: this country runs a very large system of imprisonment without trial—just for immigrants. What should be done about this? Can we both reduce the harm the system causes and at the same time work to end it?
On Friday, April 22, at 12:15 pm Pacific, 3:15 pm Eastern, Prof. Ahilan Arulanantham from the Center for Immigration Law and Policy will host a 90-minute webinar, "Immigration Prison: Hard Questions About Abolition." You’ll hear directly from Alex Rodriguez, who spent more than three years in immigration prison, and leading advocates Silky Shah and Andrew Free, who have spent their entire careers organizing and litigating against this system. The panel will also feature an exclusive interview with a recently released immigrant who had been imprisoned since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Together, they will explore hard questions facing the movement to abolish immigration prisons: Does advocating for bond hearings, counsel, or more humane conditions help or hurt the cause? Does the movement to end immigration prisons gain power, or lose it, by aligning itself with the broader movement for prison abolition? What do we make of the massive increase in the use of “alternatives to detention” under the Biden Administration? And what advice do these movement leaders have for students and other advocates?