It is self-evident that despite a lot of rhetoric about “family values,” Republicans don’t give a sh*t about families. For starters, they have gutted every effort to provide basic health coverage to American children. The mindless
In a fit of patronage to Cheney cronies at the Corrections Corporation of America, (“CCA”) the Department gave CCA a fat contract to detain persons awaiting administrative adjudication of their claims for asylum or relief. The nominal reason for this was that many claimants did not appear for their hearings. Problem was that many of these claimants had families. So DHS decided to incarcerate not just the claimant but his or her whole family. The most infamous detention center is a prison in
Hutto is one of two immigrant-detention facilities in
“The Lost Children: What do tougher detention policies mean for illegal immigrant families?” by Margaret Talbot, (The New Yorker, March 3, 2008). http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/03/03/080303fa_fact_talbot
One complication was that hundreds of children were among the immigrant detainees. Typically, kids had been sent to shelters, which allowed them to attend school, while parents were held at closed facilities. Nobody thought that it was good policy to separate parents from children—not immigration officials, not immigrant advocates, not Congress. In 2005, a report by the House Appropriations Committee expressed concern about “reports that children apprehended by D.H.S.”—the Department of Homeland Security—“even as young as nursing infants, are being separated from their parents and placed in shelters.” The committee also declared that children should not be placed in government custody unless their welfare was in question, and added that the Department of Homeland Security should “release families or use alternatives to detention” whenever possible. The report recommended a new alternative to detention known as the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program—which allows people awaiting disposition of their immigration cases to be released into the community, provided that they are closely tracked by means such as electronic monitoring bracelets, curfews, and regular contact with a caseworker. The government has since established pilot programs in twelve cities, and reports that more than ninety per cent of the people enrolled in them show up for their court dates. The immigration agency could have made a priority of putting families, especially asylum seekers, into such programs. Instead, it chose to house families in Hutto, which is owned and run by C.C.A. Families would be kept together, but it would mean they were incarcerated together.
“The Lost Children,” Talbot. Given that Hutto was a prison and that it operated as a prison, the facility was ill-equipped to deal with the incarcerated families. Fathers were separated from their wives and children. The children were housed in prison cells with their mothers. The children were denied toys, crayons or pictures and all had to dress in prison scrubs.
Families were placed in former inmate cells. Each cell had a twin bed or a bunk bed with a thin mattress, a small metal or porcelain sink, and an exposed toilet. Generally, mothers and very young children stayed together in one cell, fathers in a separate cell, and older children in another. Husbands and wives were not allowed to visit each other’s cells. . . The cell doors were metal, and each had a window two inches wide; the floor and walls were bare, except for a shatterproof acrylic mirror. Doors were to remain open during the day, but they were wired with laser-detection alarms that were triggered when anyone came or went at night. A 2007 report by two advocacy groups—the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children—noted that if a child sleeping in a separate cell woke up at night and went looking for his parents the alarm would sound, and only C.C.A. staff members were allowed to respond.
The guards at Hutto conducted as many as seven head counts a day, during which all detainees, even toddlers, were supposed to remain in place, usually by their beds, for as long as it took to complete the count. In practice, this meant that detainees might be in their cells twelve hours a day. (When head counts were not taking place, detainees could assemble in the common area within their “pod” of cells, where there were couches and two televisions.) Last March, an immigration lawyer named Griselda
Children were regularly woken up at night by guards shining lights into their cells. They were roused each morning at five-thirty. Kids were not allowed to have stuffed animals, crayons, pencils, or pens in their cells. And they were not allowed to take the pictures they had made back to their cells and hang them up. When Hutto opened as an immigration-detention center, children attended school there only one hour a day.
“The Lost Children,” Talbot. A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union obtained a modicum of relief regarding the worst conditions.
Children are no longer required to wear prison uniforms and are allowed much more time outdoors. Educational programming has expanded and guards have been instructed not to discipline children by threatening to separate them from their parents.
In addition to making those improvements permanent, the settlement also requires ICE to provide, among other things:
· allow children over the age of 12 to move freely about the facility
· provide a full-time, on-site pediatrician
· eliminate the count system which forces families to stay in their cells 12 hours a day
· install privacy curtains around toilets
· offer field trip opportunities to children
· supply more toys and age- and language-appropriate books
· improve the nutritional value of food
Despite the tremendous improvements at Hutto, the facility retains its essential character: it was a medium security prison managed by the Corrections Corporation of
ACLU Challenges Prison-Like Conditions at Hutto Detention Center, ACLU website, http://www.aclu.org/immigrants/detention/hutto.html# And that, my dear readers, is how a free and proud nation treats the children of people seeking asylum from dictatorships, autocrats, Middle-Eastern despots and anyone else who serves our interests.See video on Hutto at: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3907096540955731120.
Keep up to date with developments at Hutto: TDonHutto.blogspot.com.
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