Detention Watch Network welcomes progress on relief for immigrant communities, concerned about who is left out

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, February 18, 2021

Washington, DC — In response to the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act, Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network offered the following statement: 

“In order to achieve transformative change for immigrant communities we must center freedom, fairness and opportunity for all. The U.S Citizenship Act is a welcome first step in addressing the bigotry and cruelty entrenched in our immigration system. However, we need the Biden administration to undo the longstanding and pervasive criminalization of our immigrant family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors and take steps to end immigration detention. 

While we are encouraged by this bill and the relief that it could provide for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., we are concerned that it continues to rely on excluding some to provide relief for others. The bill proposes additional exclusions based on criminal convictions on top of those that people already face under existing law. We should be moving away from replicating the harms of the racist criminal legal system into the immigration system and punishing people twice for past convictions.   

The bill also includes provisions expanding the Family Case Management Program and Alternatives to Detention. While we are encouraged to see Congress signal a move away from the use of detention in the immigration system, these proposals will not impact immigrants subject to mandatory detention. And in fact, these programs often expand the scope of custody and surveillance and have not led to a reduction in detention. In order to truly transform the system the budget for ICE custody operations must be cut and detention center contracts should be terminated. Simply put, people navigating their immigration case should be able to do so with their families and in community -- not behind bars in immigration detention.” 


Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level. Visit Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.