Fr. Pat Murphy, executive director of the Centro Scalabrini – Casa del Migrante, looks back at 2017 and shares his list of the words that have dominated the lives of those who lived at the Casa del Migrante during the past year
This paper argues that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility’s (IIRIRA) detention mandate, special interest groups, and major federal policies have come together to fuel the expansion of immigrant detention to unprecedented levels. It discusses the implications of the growth in immigrant detention for human rights, legislative representation, and democracy in the United States. This study analyzes two main questions: What is the role of special interests in the criminalization of immigrants? Does the rapid increase in detention pose challenges or risks to democracy? The paper uses a unique dataset to reveal that major restrictive federal immigration policies such as IIRIRA and the increasing federal immigration enforcement budget have had a significant impact on immigrant detention rates. Based on these findings, the paper recommends: 1) increased transparency and accountability in data management from the Department of Homeland Security and on lobbying expenditures from for-profit detention corporations, 2) the repeal of mandatory detention laws, and 3) the repeal of the Congressional detention bed mandate.