Migrant Mothers and Children to be Freed from Texas Detention Centers

Illustration for article titled Migrant Mothers and Children to be Freed from Texas Detention Centers

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday night that they will begin the process of releasing about 2,000 women and children who have been detained for more than a year at two federal immigration detention facilities in South Texas. ICE said that going forward it “will not generally detain” mothers with children.


The families being held are mostly Central American and seeking asylum in the United States. In April of this year, 78 women being held at one of the facilities, the Karnes County Residential Center, staged a hunger strike, saying their asylum pleas weren’t being heard in the court set up for the process, and that the facility was, for all intents and purposes, a prison. At least two of the hunger strikers were reportedly placed in isolation as punishment, along with their children. One Honduran migrant mother told the Guardian that the other facility, Dilley Detention Center, was “soul-destroying.” She watched her toddler daughter grow ill, but was penniless and unable to afford the $5,000 bond ICE demanded for her release.

ICE officials said 200 women and children were freed over the weekend. According to the San Antonio Express-News, ICE officials said the other detained people would be released quickly, as soon as they passed an initial asylum interview:

“DHS has determined reconsideration is appropriate for custody decisions of arriving families who have established eligibility for asylum, or other relief under our laws. Understanding the sensitive and unique nature of housing families, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is evaluating cases of residents housed at the agency’s family residential centers,” agency spokesman Richard Rocha said. “Going forward, ICE will generally not detain mothers with children, absent a threat to public safety or national security, if they have received a positive finding for credible or reasonable fear and the individual has provided a verifiable residential address.”

According to a McClatchy report, the women and their children are being dropped off at bus stations in South Texas. The women will be monitored with ankle bracelets.

Contact the author at anna.merlan@jezebel.com.
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Detained children in the Karnes County cafeteria, September 2014. Photo via AP Images


The Noble Renard

THANK YOU for posting about this. The people who have been fighting for this are incredible, and the advocacy community is extremely happy this morning. I came in very late to the game and got to witness this policy beginning to go into action, and there is nothing better than seeing a small child eat a good home-cooked meal for the first time in months after having been locked up and fed crappy detention center food for months (apparently the big reform after Congresspeople came down was to offer them pizza OR pasta).

Family detention was just awful. AWFUL. These women had fled here to apply for asylum, and instead of giving them a chance to go to court and exercise their legal rights to apply (once they have expressed a “credible fear” of persecution in their home country, we cannot deport them, as doing so would violate both US law and international treaty obligations), they were being locked up and forced to do everything while in detention. With their small children, who ranged in age from a few months old to sixteen years old. Who didn’t deserve any of this.

And even if you’re one of those people who thinks “Screw ‘em, why should we take in refugees,” well, detention is incredibly expensive. To the tune of, according to ICE, $300/day, which means that at the largest detention center in Dilley, TX it was costing you the taxpayer $720,000 each day to run the facility (locking up 2,400 people and having enough staff to handle that is expensive). And all that money went to the GEO Group or to the Corrections Corporation of America. And the new policy change? Well, the ankle bracelets are run by subcontractors as well.