If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Lately it seems that Congress, the administration, even the press, is stuck in a loop on immigration. Every day brings a new attack on our immigrant neighbors. Over and over we are told that there is only one way forward: increased detention, deportation, and border militarization.
Instead of looking for new solutions to the humanitarian crisis on our border—such as community-based alternatives to detention which are more humane, cost-effective, and successful—the Administration is doubling down on their incarceration-first model. On April 16, the Department of Justice issued an order preventing asylum seekers from being released on bond. Instead refugees who have “a credible fear of persecution or torture” in their home country will be detained while they wait for their cases to be heard in immigration court — a process that takes months or years.
Today, officials from the Department of Defense announced plans to loosen the rules that prevent military troops from interacting with migrants, paving the way for further militarizing our immigration system.
In reality, immigrant detention is never necessary. It is vastly overused and increasingly fatal. Congress can pave the way for a new approach. The appropriations process is moving forward and in the coming weeks legislators will determine how much taxpayer money each federal department, including the Department of Homeland Security, will receive.
Congress and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are both operating under the paradigm that incarceration is the only response to migration—it’s not. Once we acknowledge that we can begin to address the crisis by investing in real solutions.