Report Release February 22, 9:30 a.m. National Press Club – Murrow Room 529 14th St., NW, 13th Floor, Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Refugee advocates found
prison-like conditions at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS)
facilities that house immigrant families, including asylum seekers, who are in immigration proceedings. The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) describe their findings in a report released today, “Locking Up Family Values: The Detention of Immigrant Families,” which also lays out steps that DHS can take immediately to ensure that families in U.S. detention are treated humanely.
“As a country that supports family values, we should not be treating
immigrant families who have not committed a crime like criminals,
particularly children,” said LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh.
The Women’s Commission and LIRS visited the T. Don Hutto Residential
Center in Texas and the Berks Family Shelter Care Facility in Pennsylvania
and talked with detained families as well as former detainees and ICE
officials. The delegation found families, many with young children,
detained in harsh conditions, for days, months and sometimes years. These
families are held in penal settings where residents are deprived of the
right to live as a family unit, denied adequate medical and mental health
care, and face overly harsh disciplinary tactics.
“Every woman we talked to in these facilities cried,” said Michelle
Brane, Director, Detention and Asylum at the Women’s Commission. “Many of
the children were clearly sad and depressed. Some feared separation from
their parents, a common threat used to ensure that children behaved
according to facility rules. Alternatives exist that are not punitive and
that keep families together while also addressing the enforcement concerns of the government.”
The detention of families expanded dramatically in 2006 with the
opening of a family facility in Texas, and represents a major shift in the U.S. government’s treatment of families in immigration proceedings. LIRS and the Women’s Commission felt it was vital to examine the implications of this expanding penal approach to family detention in order to inform the development of policy and practice that serves the best interests of
children and families.
The report recommends practical and viable alternatives to this
criminal model as well as recommendations for the development of standards.
For more information, please contact Megan McKenna, Women’s Commission
for Refugee Women and Children, +1-347-414-1998, or Cassandra Champion,
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, +1-410-230-2791. The full report will be available on February 22 at http://www.womenscommission.org and