Mass Incarceration

According to the American Bar Association, even though the United States has only 5% or the world’s population, the U.S. holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners, including one-third of all women incarcerated worldwide. Further the ABA states: “The federal prison population has increased nearly 800% since 1980 and more than doubled since 1994, with spending up 1700% over that period, and federal prisons are currently operating at 131% of capacity. This is due in significant degree to the proliferation of mandatory minimum sentences.  Nearly half of all federal prisoners are serving sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.”

Divest from Police, Invest in Communities. The District should divest its resources away from the expansion of police forces and aggressive, militarized police practices. Instead, the District should invest into quality public schools, affordable housing and a guaranteed jobs program.

Support Returning Citizens. Further, the District should emphasize support for returning citizens with stable housing and REAL pathways to employment.

Solidarity with D.C. Prisoners. District leaders should acknowledge the severe impact that Federal sentencing guidelines have had on generations of predominantly Black D.C. residents. Local leaders should stand in full solidarity with D.C. prisoners trying to shed light on the system-wide crime of mass incarceration, and support their fight to return to their families and communities.


Despite being labeled a Sanctuary City by the mayor and other local elected officials, DC residents have been terrorized by raids and continue to be torn from their families, incarcerated, and deported. There have been at least 86 recent immigration arrests from recent Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) actions in DC and the immediate surrounding area, and the immigrant community reports many more which are not listed in ICE’s official numbers.[1] In addition to the fear of raids, interaction with regular DC law enforcement, such as arrests over minor traffic violations or baseless suspicions become defining moments for DC immigrant residents and their families.[2] The DC Jail has been working with ICE to detail DC residents by notifying ICE when immigrants are released so that ICE can come and detain them, and by giving ICE agents special access inside the jail. Available data shows that DC jail has transferred at least 43 of our neighbors to ICE since 2016, and helped ICE detain many others directly outside the jail. Other DC officials such as MPD officers aid ICE in detaining immigrants as well.

This reality has created an environment of fear which permeates every aspect of life for our undocumented or mixed status family residents. Immigrant communities need an end to the threat of terror from police and ICE that they face on a daily basis. DC claims to be a sanctuary city but as long as its legal system shares information with immigration enforcement agencies like ICE, it is not. The criminalization of immigration is inextricably linked to over-policing and racial profiling, and is another face of mass incarceration and the booming industry of private detention facilities. D.C. must be at the forefront on standing in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters and stop passively supporting the failed and inhumane immigration policies put forth by the federal government.[3]

Real sanctuary in DC: No Human Being Is Illegal. The District must take all steps necessary to protect immigrant communities against ICE. This includes ending racial profiling practices and preventing local police officers from asking anyone their immigration status, as well as putting an end to the sharing of information by DC law enforcement, courts, and other agencies with ICE.

First, we have to strengthen existing sanctuary laws by making the DC government and agencies accountable. There must be strong penalties for racial profiling, and for officials that illegally inquire about or detain residents based solely on their immigration status or assumptions regarding the same. DC Council should pass the Sanctuary Values Act, to prohibit DC

agencies from turning over individuals to ICE for detention and deportation. The law would end

collaboration between the DC government and ICE unless there is a judicial warrant. As currently written, the law would ban DC government agencies from detaining an individual for ICE, sharing an individual’s location or releasing information with ICE, and from giving ICE agents access inside its jails.

Second, we must protect our immigrant communities by protecting information from being accessed by federal immigration enforcement entities. ICE can often access the information of DC residents within the DC legal system because of federal partners involved in the DC legal system and based on the kind of databases used, even when no intentional sharing of information occurs. Additionally, access to private technology such as facial recognition software and other surveillance tools by law enforcement for immigration related purposes is currently virtually unregulated. To ensure the protection of our immigrant neighbors, it is crucial that all actors are bound by Sanctuary policies that prohibit the sharing of information from the DC criminal legal system with federal immigration enforcement agencies. We must ensure safety measures such as opportunities for public notice and comment at a minimum, and contingencies on funding to make certain that communities are aware and consulted before law enforcement acquires and begins to utilize biometric data collection technology, facial recognition software, and other surveillance tools.[4] It is critical that data collection at all levels of DC law enforcement and the DC legal system, containing personal information for thousands of DC residents, including loopholes such as so called “gang databases” be fully reviewed and limited as necessary so that data cannot be accessed in ways that put DC immigrants and their families at risk of deportation and separation.[5]

Immigration detention is an issue of mass incarceration, and as a government, we must also take every step to actively block any immigration detention facility proposed in or near DC. We will make sure we do our part to take steps to force pension funds to divest from private prison firms.[6]

Finally, every DC institution, agency, department, and program has a role to play in protecting DC immigrant residents and their families. ICE should not be permitted to enter or request information from any DC institution, such as schools, the DMV, or the local Housing Authority. Steps should be taken to ensure that all services in DC, such as drivers licenses, housing, and educational programs, may be accessed regardless of immigration status. This is necessary for DC to become a truly accessible and safe city for all of its residents.

Economic Justice for DC’s Immigrant Community. District residents of all immigration statuses should benefit from District employment opportunities and protections. It is essential that we create a system whereby every D.C. resident’s labor is valued so that wages rise and all workers are treated equally.

Wage theft is an issue that affects many of DC’s residents, and undocumented workers are particularly vulnerable. We need to ensure that employers who exploit the labor of their workers or retaliate against workers by threatening them with calling immigration enforcement face criminal penalties. Specifically, we will take action and support all current measures being proposed to make discrimination in employment and housing based on immigration status illegal and punishable by law.

But most importantly, we must ensure that there is a clear, easy, and effective way for DC residents affected by wage theft and discrimination based on their immigration status to access justice. We must create a new system where those affected can confidently and easily take action to report, keep track of, and take action on these cases as they arise.

[1] https://www.aila.org/infonet/map-ice-enforcement-actions-january-2017-current


[3] https://www.immigrantjustice.org/issues/decriminalize-immigration