The U.S. House of Representatives and the Rights of Detainees

For the last several months we have been presented with many stories about the shocking conditions suffered by incarcerated detainees, stories that shock our notions of due process, and stories of mistreatment at the time of the arrest of people without papers.  I’ve read stories about The Wall and plans for the extravagant buildup of immigration and border security forces.  All this caused me to wonder what is actually happening in Congress on these subjects.

Today a bill to require immigration and Homeland Security field agents to wear body cameras was referred in the House of Representatives to committee.  The bill was cosponsored by 26 Democrats and was referred to three Republican dominated committees.  One of them is the Judiciary Committee which is notable because the celebrated civil rights champion John Conyers, Jr. is on the committee along with Steven King, notable for his explicitly racist accounts of Republican activity.   The Republicans made him the chair of the subcommittee The Constitution and Civil Justice.  Also on this committee is Pramila Jayapal from the Seventh Congressional District which consists of areas just outside Seattle and is the most white-majority Democratic district in the country.  The other interesting committee to get the bill is Ways and Means where Washington’s Eighth Congressional District has placed Republican Dave Reichert in a senior position.  Two similar Democrat-sponsored bills had been referred to these committees without any action having yet been taken.

A week ago the Republicans introduced a bill to loosen hiring requirements for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In February Pramila Jayapal sponsored a bill to give detainees the right to counsel, the right to food and water, and access to

bathrooms, a requirement that they be process promptly instead of the indeterminate incarceration they now endure.  The conditions of detainees do not begin to meet the United Nations’ declaration of the rights of prisoners and this bill is a modest attempt to afford them the most basic rights and it is given a 4% chance of passage by PredictGov.  This Republican disregard of the human rights of non-citizens, according to Hannah Arendt, is a necessary precursor to the establishment of a totalitarian government.

You can go here to see the remarkably clear dichotomy between what the Democrats are trying to do and Republican legislative undertakings.  The Democrats are establish basic human rights for detainee and prevent abuse, while the Republicans are all about enhanced police activity for the arrest and incarceration of paperless people and opposed to the establishment of any rights with respect to those people.

Private prisons benefit enormously from the Republican position on border enforcement-related issues.  Their stock actually fluctuates with changes in the policy.  They oppose the recognition of the human rights of detainees because likely would increase overhead and could reduce their imprisoned populations.  For this reason they are important contributors to Republican campaigns and Republicans have been faithful to them.

The U.S. House of Representatives and the Rights of Detainees

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