“A Hidden System” and the Human Cost of Detention

July 31, 2008

This video and post from my friends at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugees further documents the just plain evil things that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency calls its daily bread. Thanks to the Coalition for their consistency and focus on these issues.

Americans of all stripes are coming together to shine light on the federal government’s failure to uphold basic human rights and due process for immigrants being held in detention. “A Hidden System” is a short video the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) produced to give a face to what’s wrong with our ballooning detention industry.

The video is based on the June 19th Night of 1,000 Conversations vigil and action ICIRR held at the Broadview Detention Center near Chicago. In the wake of expanding enforcement operations, over 100 community members and people of faith came out to protest what they saw as a system out of control. This action was just one example of how people are beginning to speak out against the conditions in which immigrant men and women are being separated from their families, locked up, and denied fair trials.

Linking this drive to last weekend’s rally to shine light on the massive violations that took place in Postville, Iowa, this past May, Marisa Trevino of Latina Lista, writes:

The secretive and isolationist nature of how the federal government conducts deportations and immigrant detentions naturally lends itself to abuse of the system and the erosion of human rights.

In “A Hidden System,” people of faith, activists, attorneys, and community members explore the human cost of a rapidly growing immigrant detention business. The New York Times and the Washington Post have both reported on the untimely deaths of more than 66 men and women who have died in immigrant detention under ICE’s custody. Untold others are being held in unsafe conditions. As difficult as it is to believe, unauthorized workers are routinely denied access to basic rights, such as the ability to make a phone-call home to inform their families that they are being detained.

Roberto Lovato , of Of America, writes:

“Among the principal concerns to be discussed during the nationwide events are what critics say, is nothing less than a “Guantanamization” of migrant detention within the borders of the United States: death, abuse and neglect at the hands of detention facility guards (many of whom are former military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan); the prolonged and indefinite detention of thousands including children and families denied due process and other fundamental rights as they languish in filthy, overcrowded and extremely unhealthy facilities; orange-uniformed detainees sedated with psychotropic drugs, attacked by growling dogs and physically and sexually abused by guards; multi-million government contracts for prison construction and management given to high-powered, military industrial and prison industrial giants like Halliburton and the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, whose former director set up the infamous Abu Ghraib detention facility.

While it may be difficult for the average American to imagine all of this happening within our borders, it is also difficult for those who hear about these atrocities to keep quiet.

In the final scenes of “A Hidden System,” Andrea Black, founder of Detention Watch Network, says “When people hear about this, they immediately want to get involved.”

Let’s hope we can get enough people concerned and involved that it forces the federal government to reform a system so horrific that it cannot stay hidden long.

2 Responses to ““A Hidden System” and the Human Cost of Detention”

  1. jackie@icirr Says:

    Thanks for continually shining the light bright on this hidden and un-American system, Roberto.

    I trust that your posts will inspire others to take up the call.


  2. […] about, and watch, the video “A Hidden System” and the Human Cost of Detention at Of […]


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