More Abuse Reports in Detention
"Help us and ask us questions," scrawled in child's handwriting on a torn slip of paper recently found its way into the hands of a visitor at a detention center for immigrant families in Texas. The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services visited T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas and the Berks Family Shelter Care Facility in Pennsylvania where they interviewed detainees and ICE officials and have written a report on their findings.
Now, they are pushing to shut down these centers on the grounds that they treat families inhumanely and hope to stop the government's creation of further similar facilities, according to the AP.
"'What hits you the hardest in there is that it's a prison. In Hutto, it's a prison,' said Michelle Brane, detention and asylum project director for Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children." [AP]
Until recently, children of people in immigration proceedings were simply taken from their parents. So, keeping them together should be an improvement. However, because these are the first facilities of their kind, "there are no standards for family detention, but both facilities violated various aspects of existing standards for the treatment of unaccompanied children and adults in immigration proceedings." [From actual report.]
Other findings by the groups:
-At Hutto, cell door systems prevent parents from attending to children after "lights out." At the Berks shelter, children over 5 sleep separately from their parents.
-Until recently, Hutto children were given one hour of schooling a day, five days a week. That recently has been increased to four.
-Teachers at the Hutto center are not required to be licensed in Texas and the state's family welfare agency exempted Hutto from child care licensing requirements.
-Separation and threats of separation were used as disciplinary tools on adults and children. [AP]
"• Hutto is a former criminal facility that still looks and feels like a prison, complete with razor wire and prison cells.
• Some families with young children have been detained in these facilities for up to two years.
• People in detention displayed widespread and obvious psychological trauma. Every woman we spoke with in a private setting cried.
• At Hutto pregnant women received inadequate prenatal care.
• Families in Hutto received no more than twenty minutes to go through the cafeteria line and feed their children and themselves. Children were frequently sick from the food and losing weight.
• Families in Hutto received extremely limited indoor and outdoor recreation time and children did not have any soft toys." [From actual report.]
Berks seems to be run better, allowing more time for recreation and more activities for children. But both facilities treat non-convicts, including women and children, like criminal prisoners. Because they have no guidelines, they discipline both children and adults inconsistently and without regard for age differences among children. The groups also found that both facilities violated standards about denying access to counsel, food, hygiene products, clothing, etc., and resorting to corporal punishment.
The AP quotes White House Press Sec. Tony Snow justifying the facilities, "You have to do the best with what you've got." If this is the best the ICE can do, then it needs some discipline itself.
Technorati tags: Immigration, Politics, Latino, ICE, prison,children, Illegal.