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Immigration, Detention, Iowa Caucuses

A gathering tonight in Des Moines brings together activists from across the nation who want to see an end to the immigration-detention quota. Credit: TheaDesign
A gathering tonight in Des Moines brings together activists from across the nation who want to see an end to the immigration-detention quota. Credit: TheaDesign
September 23, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - As the presidential hopefuls continue to focus on Iowa with the all-important caucuses now slightly more than four months away, a gathering in the state tonight seeks to turn their attention to the detention of immigrants.

Gabriela Flora, program director for the American Friends Service Committee, said the United States has the largest immigrant-detention infrastructure in the world and more than half of the detained immigrants are in facilities run by private for-profit prison corporations "who stand to gain a whole lot of money from this.

"An example of this is, the Corrections Corporation of America received $208 million in U.S. government contracts to detain immigrants in 2012," she said, "and those figures have actually gone up since then."

Flora said those big contracts are why these prison corporations have spent millions to lobby lawmakers in support of the quota that requires an average of 34,000 immigrants to be locked up across the country every day. Tonight's meeting in Des Moines will focus on efforts to put an end to that mandate.

Better public policy would be to provide immigrants in the United States with a path to citizenship, Flora said. Until that federal reform comes to fruition, she added, there are options other than detention that would keep these families together and save taxpayer dollars.

"There are plenty of alternatives to detention," she said. "You can do different kinds of monitoring that costs anything from being free to $12 a day. There are plenty of alternatives where people can show up to court dates without being in detention."

Flora said some of the presidential hopefuls already have come out against the immigrant-detention quota and the American Friends Service Committee will continue to bring the issue to light among all candidates and voters. The Iowa caucuses, which are the first major electoral event of the nominating process for president, will be held on Feb. 1.

More information is online at gui.afsc.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA