Texas Injunction Demonstrates that Family Detention Facilities are Not Fit to House Children
New York City – Following an injunction from a Texas judge blocking the licensing of the family detention facility in Dilley as a childcare facility, Human Rights First today renews its calls on the Obama Administration to end its policy of detaining women and their children. The temporary injunction states that the Dilley facility must comply with Texas state laws that regulate child care facilities before it can receive a license to operate as a child care facility – for example, that the facility cannot house unrelated adults in the same room as children.
“This injunction is recognition that family detention facilities are not child care centers and are simply not appropriate places to house children,” said Human Rights First’s Robyn Barnard. “There is mounting pressure on the Obama Administration to end this unnecessary and inhumane policy, and they should heed those calls immediately.”
Yesterday’s news follows a motion to enforce filed last month against the government that contained new evidence of the government’s continued violations of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs the standards for the detention, release, and treatment of minors in immigration custody. Earlier this year, the Berks County family detention center in Pennsylvania faced a similar licensing issue; its license expired and was not renewed in February 2016. The Berks detention center had been licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services as a child residential facility for dependent and delinquent children.
June 20 marks World Refugee Day, which coincides with the 2 year anniversary of the Obama Administration’s announcement that it would detain large numbers of asylum-seeking families from Central America as part of a deterrence-based strategy to stop other children and families from migrating to the United States.
A growing body of medical literature has found that detention is harmful to children’s health. Community-based alternatives to detention have been proven to support appearance at hearings, while also providing families with social supports, when needed. Legal counsel is also key to ensuring due process and compliance with immigration proceedings. When mothers and children were represented by counsel, they appeared for hearings 98 percent of the time.
A broad array of voices have called on the administration to end the practice of detaining families, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association, Catholic and Lutheran Bishops, and 178 Members of Congress and 35 Senators, and many groups have similarly called for the administration to immediately end deportation raids against families.