Immigration is Focus at Incarceration Conference

By Kayla Nicholls '20

 Image from bennington.edu

Image from bennington.edu

This past weekend, CAPA hosted its sixth Incarceration in America Conference, featuring speakers from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the National Immigrant Law Center, and others. Panelists gathered to discuss three major topics around migrant rights: general trends in immigration enforcement, private prisons, and local government and NGO involvement.

During the panel featuring general trends in immigration enforcement, the panelists emphasized the importance of narrative shifts. Increasingly, migrants are being deported and removed from the US in the center of the country, not just at the border. The “border” definition has also increased to include land area up to 100 miles from the physical border. Panelists highlighted such attitudes towards immigrants in Arizona, where its proximity to the US-Mexico border causes a culture of anti-immigration. ICE agents patrol around hospitals and has even pulled over an ambulance that was carrying a child in need of emergency medical services in order to detain the child’s parents.

The next panel centered around Immigration and Private Prisons, which further highlighted the aggressive criminalization of immigration. Private prisons make a profit of $90 million each year. The conditions in prisons and detention centers are identical: poor drinking water, no medical services for children or pregnant women, and lights are always one to confuse time. Many organizations have requested that the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture inspect detention centers to check their quality. Detention centers are also increasingly confusing for immigrants who often are detained without any information. Accordingly, a Legal Orientation Program was set up to provide immigrants held in detention with vital information about their cases.This legal information becomes vital if they want to win their cases. Representation, if possible, is even more important: without representation, immigrants win four percent of their cases, with representation, they win 48 percent of the time.

The final panel ended the conference with information about local government and NGO activism. National Immigrant Law Center opens a variety of safe schools and sanctuary cities and businesses. They mobilize communities to deny ICE jurisdiction in businesses, schools, hospitals, and other entities within the community. These groups and others lead trainings to spread the information about what to do to resist ICE officers and protect employees fourth amendment rights not to be arrested without a warrant.