A Detention Machine

America, of all places, should not be in the business of this sort of detention. Not now, not ever. We are, and always will be, at our best as a free and welcoming place.

“Maybe it is a concentration camp; I don’t want to make it look nice.” Joe Arpaio stands by his 2008 description of his infamous “tent city” jail. The former Arizona sheriff cultivates an image of toughness on immigration. In 2016, Donald Trump welcomed Arpaio’s support, saying, “When Sheriff Arpaio gives you an endorsement, you know you’re the king of the border.” Rewarding Arpaio with a presidential pardon in 2017 after the sheriff defied a judge’s order to stop immigration arrests, Trump sent a clear message that the handcuffs were off Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Every day, as many as 50,000 people wake up behind bars in immigration detention centers across America, including families fleeing violence and seeking safety in the United States. Last year, ICE arrests of non-criminals more than doubled.

Deportation Nation, a new documentary from The Atlantic, goes behind the scenes of America’s sprawling network of detention centers, where 179 people have died awaiting deportation since 2003.

“There are safer and more humane ways of doing this that are just as tough,” says John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE, in the film. “It makes no sense to me. We should ask ourselves a larger question: Why are we in this business? What do we get out of this?”

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