The Catholic Diocese of Joliet, with parishes throughout Kankakee County, including Sacred Heart Parish in Hopkins Park, stands in opposition to the for-profit, private Immigration and Custom Enforcement (I.C.E.) detention center – an immigrant prison – under consideration in Pembroke Township.
As early as 2000 the U.S. Bishops expressed concerned about the rise of For-Profit Prisons. They write, “We are concerned about the rise in for-profit private prisons because previous attempts to introduce the profit motive into prisons have failed to respect the fundamental human dignity of every prisoner.” “Prisoners are persons, with inherent God-given human dignity. When prisoners become units from which profit is derived, there is a tendency to see them as commodities rather than as children of God. Our troubled times have taught us that, once people are dehumanized, they are more liable to be exploited, abused and violated…” “Since it appears that private prisons are not consistent with the need for our prisons to respect the human dignity of each and every person, we call for an end to all for-profit private prisons. The trend towards more and more people being held in private prisons should be reversed immediately. We call on all levels of government to refuse to sign new contracts or to renew expiring ones with private prison corporations.”
We are opposed not only to For-Profit Prisons in general, but to this Immigrant Prison in particular. We go further and call for an end to our present system of deportation. The detention and deportation policy of I.C.E. divides families, often separating individuals from spouses and children who are U.S. citizens. The division of families through detention and deportation places more of our citizens at risk, increases the number in poverty, and even forces many children into foster care.
What we need is comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform. We call for a moratorium on detention and deportation until such policy can be developed.
Presently U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents must endure many years of separation from close family members who they want to join them in the United States. The backlogs of available visas for family members results in waits of five, ten, fifteen, and more years of waiting for a visa to become available. This system is cruel and inhumane, and only increases the numbers who live in the shadows, not wanting to endure the separation of loved ones.
We call for a reduction of the pending backlog and more visas available for family reunification purposes. Until such action can be taken, detention and deportation serve only to inflict punishment and harm on families, families who are contributing to the economic and social well being of our communities.
Pembroke Township should not participate in unjust, unproductive, economically harmful policies by allowing the building of an I.C.E. detention center.
I am sure you are aware that the Department of Justice recently determined to end all contracts with for-profit prison corporations. This impacts federal prisons, but not immigration detention centers – these fall under the Department of Homeland Security. DHS is now considering following DOJ’s lead. Clearly Pembroke Township should not enter into negotiations for a prison which most likely will have no future.
Thomas L. Garlitz,
Office for Human Dignity
Catholic Diocese of Joliet