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Dignity Not Detention Act Would End Immigration Detention in New York

The Dignity Not Detention Act would require governmental entities to end all of their current and future contracts to hold individuals in immigration detention facilities in New York State. The bill would also ban any privately-owned or managed detention facilities from operating in the state. 

The legislation has gained momentum in recent months, as allegations of abuse and maltreatment surfaced from the Orange County Jail in Goshen, New York. There are four detention centers in New York that were holding individuals in their facilities as of early May, according to ICE. The Orange County facility and the Batavia Service Processing Center near Buffalo hold the most detained immigrants–with about 245 immigrants being held at Batavia as of early May, and about 140 detained immigrants at Orange, according to data from ICE.

At a city council meeting in February, immigrant advocates shared testimonies from people inside of the jail, which focused on a lack of medical care, as well as allegations that the officials at the jail spouted racist comments and that guards abused some of the detained immigrants. 

New York City Council members also recently took a rare planned tour of the Orange County facility in mid-May, voicing concerns about a lack of Covid-19 protocols, inadequate medical care and insufficient language services after a rare tour of the facility. 

At the time, City Council Member Shekar Krishnan said that the visit reinforced that the state should pass the Dignity Not Detention Act. “The only way to fix it is to end it, because no amount of finessing, accreditation or any language can really hide what is happening,” he said.

Many are hoping that New York would take a step in following New Jersey’s lead, where Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill last year which banned new, renewed and extended agreements with ICE to detain immigrants in New Jersey.

Sen. Julia Salazar is sponsoring the Dignity not Detention in the New York Senate, and Assembly Member Karines Reyes is sponsoring the legislation in the Assembly. The bill is currently in the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, and in the Assembly Correction Committee, 

“The experiences of detained immigrants are often invisible, hidden behind detention walls and muffled by retaliation,” Tania Mattos, the director of advocacy and policy at Envision Freedom Fund said in a statement. “We will keep fighting until immigration detention is ended forever.”

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