The ACLU of Maine Foundation filed suit today on behalf of Wilmer Recinos, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador that suffered a brutal beating at the hands of two guards while being held in the Cumberland County Jail in 2010. 

Mr. Recinos experience is sadly representative of our broken immigration detention system

In the past 15 years, the number of detainees placed in immigration detention has skyrocketed under a "lock'em up" mentality that defines American criminal justice. 

In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security held 363,000 detainees at over 250 facilities across the nation.  An outrageous incarceration rate for a group that poses virtually zero threat to public safety.  The idea that we need immigration detention to keep “dangerous criminals” off our streets is a myth.  Individuals in immigration detention are not serving criminal sentences—indeed, more than half of the people in immigration detention have never been convicted of a crime, and those with criminal records have overwhelmingly been convicted of non-violent or minor offenses.

They are survivors of torture, asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, families with small children, the elderly, individuals with serious medical and mental health conditions, and lawful permanent residents with longstanding family and community ties who are facing deportation because of old or minor crimes.

If the sheer numbers alone aren't bad enough, detainees are often in legal limbo.  They have no due process rights like a right to a lawyer or a prompt bond hearing.  Indeed, many are locked up for years without a hearing

Of course, worst of all, some (like Mr. Recinos) face severe physical abuse at the hands of guards that often act with impunity.  If the recent investigation the ACLU has carried out on sexual abuse in Immigration Detention Facilities is any guage, detainee abuse is also a systemic problem across the nation.