Why BAJI supports New York’s Dignity Not Detention Act
By, Uchechukwu Onwa
All my life I have been fighting to survive. I fought my homophobic home country until I was tired. I then fled to the US to seek protection, and yet here I am continuing to fight for me and my community to exist. I am committed to continue in the fight for the Black community that includes Black migrants because we all deserve to exist. As a Black migrant man who spent months in an ICE detention facility, I cannot overstate the importance I place on myself in advocating for the abolishment of all cages in the US.
Last week, on May 2nd 2023, BAJI joined advocates, organizers and impacted community members in Albany, New York to lobby legislators to support the Dignity Not Detention Act. We ended the day with a rally and march in Troy, NY and at Rensselaer County Jail to show our support for folks currently detained there.
On any given night, hundreds of New Yorkers are detained by ICE in jails and prisons across the state. Detention and mass incarceration are inhumane as they strip us of our dignity and separate us from our families and communities. Several counties in New York financially profit from immigration detention and ICE is actively seeking to expand detention in New York. We demand an end to this dehumanization.
The New York Dignity Not Detention (DND) Act (S306 Salazar /A4354 Reyes) gets New York out of the business of immigration detention. When immigrants and communities can live in dignity and freedom, we move toward creating a more welcoming state for all who call New York home.
The DND aims to prevent a loophole left over from the (2007) NY State policy ban on private prisons– which permitted private prison companies to continue to contract with ICE and detain immigrant New Yorkers. This bill closes the loophole which allowed immigrant New Yorkers to be prisoners-for-profit in New York for many years.
The NY Dignity Not Detention coalition on why New York should end it’s contract with ICE:
“When New York devotes its resources to jailing immigrants for ICE, it is an active participant in anti-immigrant policies. Ending immigration detention in New York will help end family separation by ICE. Research also shows that the likelihood of ICE arrests increases with ICE detention capacity: immigrants are more likely to be arrested and detained by ICE in counties with more detention beds as well as higher overall jail and prison capacity. By ending its contracts with ICE, New York can play a critical, long-term role in keeping New York families together and strengthening New York communities.”
WHAT DOES THE BILL DO?
- Prohibits NY governmental entities from entering into immigration detention contracts and from receiving any payments related to immigration detention.
- Prohibits NY governmental entities from renewing any existing immigration detention contracts.
- Requires any NY governmental entities with existing immigration detention contracts to exercise the termination provision in the contract.
- Prohibits any person, business, or private entity from owning or operating immigration detention facilities.
Similar legislation have successfully passed and signed into law in New Jersey (S3361, A5207), Maryland (SB 478), California (SB 29, AB 103), Washington (SB 5497, HB1090), and Illinois (SB0667). New Mexico (HB40) and Massachusetts (S997) have similar pending bills.
Detention is incarceration and BAJI calls for an end to all immigrant detention everywhere just as we call for prison abolition. As we push for an end to detention in NY State, we see the Dignity Not Detention Act as a tool in the movement towards decarceration. We stand with the DND Coalition in demanding the Just Closures Campaign that seeks to shut down all immigrant detention centers, release detained migrants and not transfer them to other facilities outside of each state.
As someone who has suffered the indignity of detention, it was and continues to be inspiring and motivating seeing other directly impacted community members at the forefront of this fight.