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The U.S. is the world’s leading jailer. Over the last 30 years, harsh sentencing laws and the progressive erosion of social programs has caused the prison population to increase by 500%. Today, more than 2.3 million people are behind bars in this country, and the vast majority are people of color.

Among those locked up as part of the explosion of the prison system are thousands of non-citizens, who have been targeted for deportation and are seeking the right to remain in the U.S. Throughout this process, they are imprisoned by the government and subjected to extreme physical and mental suffering, without any of the standard legal protections that are the hallmarks of true democracies.

This cruel and unjust practice is a relatively recent policy development. The drastic expansion in immigration detention -- from about 70,000 people detained annually to about 400,000 – has taken place in just the last 15 years. In 1996, in violation of international law, the U.S. passed legislation mandating the detention of broad categories of non-citizens. Mandatory detention allows the government to lock up non-citizens, including legal permanent residents who have lived in the U.S their entire lives, asylum seekers, torture survivors, single mothers, the sick and the elderly, without authorization from a judge. In the wake of 9/11, anti-immigrant hysteria led to an expansion of both mandatory detention laws and of the harsh enforcement programs – such as Secure Communities, 287g, and the Criminal Alien Program – that pull people into mandatory detention, separating families and sowing fear in communities across the country.

Conditions in immigration detention are notoriously inhumane. Human rights violations are rampant, including poor medical care, physical and verbal abuse, interference with religious practice, and the use of solitary confinement, among others. At least 121 people have died in immigration detention since 2003. Facilities are often located hundreds of miles from urban centers, and individuals are regularly sent to facilities several states away from where they are originally detained, making family visitation and access to counsel nearly impossible.

Detention Watch Network asks you to join us in the Dignity Not Detention campaign to repeal mandatory detention, so that we can restore due process in immigration law and policy, and start reducing the number of people behind bars in the United States.


  • We demand that Congress repeal all laws mandating the detention of non-citizens.
  • We demand that the Obama Administration put an end to all policies and programs that use the criminal justice system to target people for detention and deportation.
  • We demand that the Obama Administration work to bring the U.S. into compliance with its obligations under international human rights law, which prohibits arbitrary detention.

By endorsing the campaign, your organization acknowledges its support for the Dignity not Detention Campaign Statement and demands. Endorsing organizations will be publicly acknowledged as part of the campaign. Please note, endorsements are for organizations only.

To add your name to the endorsement list, please send an email with your organization and contact information to acarrion [at] detentionwatchnetwork [dot] org.