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Like most U.S. citizens, Michele and her mother Kathy knew little about the U.S. immigration detention system. When Michele’s boyfriend Michael was detained on the border, she and her mom were thrust into a nightmare they never saw coming. “The way they treat immigrants in detention is an embarrassment,” Michele says. She and Kathy witnessed Michael’s health deteriorate rapidly in detention as he was deprived of needed medical care. Eventually, Michael gave up on his claim to remain in the United States and signed his deportation order to Honduras. Kathy, who had embraced Michael as her own son, thinks that decision to get out of detention may have saved his life—but it also tore apart their family. Michael has no legal way to return to the United States.

The U.S. immigration detention system is destroying lives and American families. The conditions are often abhorrent. Medical neglect, discrimination, and solitary confinement are the rule rather than the exception. As a society that purports to value justice and human rights, Americans should be ashamed of it. It also comes at a huge financial cost—more than $2 billion in taxpayer money was spent on immigration detention last year alone.

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