The U.S. immigration detention system is indefensible, the New York Times maintains in an editorial. Immigrant detainees are being locked up merely because the government wants to make sure they show up in immigration court. The newspaper contends that the detention system “breeds cruelty and harm, and squanders taxpayer money. It denies its victims due process of law, punishing them far beyond the scale of any offense. It shatters families and traumatizes children. As a system of mass incarceration … it is immoral.”
The director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Sarah Saldaña, this week announced reforms to the family detention system, including creation of a committee and giving lawyers more working space to meet with clients. The Times says such changes don’t deal with the basic problems of detaining families and others and that the system should be shut down and replaced with something better. The system has grown immense, from housing 85,000 detainees in 1995 to more than 440,000 in 2013. The Times says that reforms can’t be expected soon from Congress, which requires the Department of Homeland Security to maintain, at all times, 34,000 detention beds, no matter the need.