Immigration Attorneys Voice Concerns about Family Detention Centers

America’s two largest immigrant family detention centers, both located in Texas, have been the subject of recent complaints from pro bono attorneys who represent women and children at the centers. The complaints are rather timely, coming in just prior to a forum on family detention hosted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus and members of the House Judiciary Committee.

Under President Obama’s leadership, family detention has increased, going from one 95-bed family detention center in Pennsylvania to three designed to house 3,700 by the end of the year. Lawyers working at the two Texas facilities, however, are unhappy with the way they believe U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) is running these centers.

The lawyers are part of numerous national immigration groups, including Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Assn. (AILA). They are responsible for offering legal services to mothers and children detained at the Texas detention centers through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project.

Women & Children Said to be Victims of Mistreatment

According to CARA, staff and volunteers at the facilities have seen ICE officials partake in numerous violations against women and children currently housed at the centers. These violations allegedly include mandatory ankle monitors, forbidding legal counsel, and general confusion surrounding the release policy for mothers who are seeking protection in the U.S.

ICE’s response emphasized their concern for each person housed at the family detention centers. The organization also said it has plans to assess the cases of certain residents and will avoid detaining mothers with children, provided that no safety threats exist.

In a letter sent to ICE by the pro bono lawyers working at the Texas facilities, the lawyers went into detail about the alleged violations that are occurring at the facilities. Along with ankle monitors and lawyers getting locked out, there have also been reports of workers at the facilities using intimidation to accomplish their goals.

At present, it remains to be seen whether ICE will actively respond to the allegations. The agency did respond by saying that in the past, immigrant women housed at the detention centers received “know your rights” presentations. This is certainly an issue to watch in the coming weeks.

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