"We are extremely disappointed and dismayed by the Administration's decision to continue using detention in an effort to deter and discourage women and children fleeing violence and abuse in their home countries from seeking protection in the United States," said the Women's Refugee Commission's Katharina Obser.
Katharina Obser, program officer in the Migrant Rights and Justice Program for WRC, said many families at Dilley had faced persecution, violence and trauma and sought safety in the U.S. Obser said she was told 80 percent of the population at Dilley expressed fears of returning to their native country.
"These families in Dilley consist primarily of traumatized asylum-seeking mothers and children who don’t pose a public security risk and are still fundamentally deprived of liberty," said Katharina Obser with the Women’s Refugee Commission. "They cannot leave. They are subject to head counts every three hours, and that includes guards walking into their rooms in the middle of the night, and they have no idea when they might be released and in many cases what will happen with their cases."
"It’s been a heartbreaking week for children and mothers fleeing violence and seeking asylum in the United States. Continuing the unprecedented expansion of family detention in less than a year, on Monday Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson traveled to the tiny town of Dilley, Texas to inaugurate our country’s newest and soon-to-be largest immigration detention center. Meanwhile, Karnes County, Texas commissioners voted to more than double the number of beds to lock up families in Karnes City’s private, for-profit family detention center. These detainees are mothers, toddlers, and babies, many of whom have fled unspeakable terror and trauma, and who pose no danger to the United States."
ORR typically requires shelters to report when children are restrained or injected with emergency medication. Its policy for treatment centers, however, states that it is "not unexpected" for children with behavior problems and other disorders to act out, and therefore it is not necessary to file a report.
"That's just irresponsible," said Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission's Migrant Rights and Justice program, who for more than a decade has advocated for better protections for unaccompanied children.
Until 2007, there was no designated group working to encourage humanitarian organizations to comply with these cooking and lighting standards. As a result, these issues languished and refugees, internally displaced persons, and other crisis-affected populations suffered.
In response, organizations such as the UN Refugee Agency, Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), UN World Food Programme (WFP), and others, collaborated to form the SAFE Steering Committee, which the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (Alliance) and WRC co-chair.
Remarks by Anne C. Richard, the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Because the offer applies only to people with parents living lawfully in the U.S., it won’t help most kids who need it, said Jennifer Podkul, senior program officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission in Washington. "Some of the most vulnerable kids have parents who don’t have legal status in the U.S.," she said. "It’s a good first step but it’s not going to be panacea for this problem."
Inadequate medical and mental-health resources is another cause of concern. While a medical facility is open onsite at Karnes, a number of advocates and lawyers interviewed for this story, as well as instances detailed in a new report by the Women's Refugee Commission and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, say that their clients aren't receiving the care or medication that they've requested.
“By pushing cases too quickly through the courts, it is just form over substance — simply a veneer of due process,” said Jennifer Podkul, an attorney and senior program officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Giving a kid a hearing before they have adequate time to find an attorney or to be in a position to articulate a fear of return is not justice.”
In fact, the numbers suggest the full impact of the expedited process has not yet been felt because of the abundance of continuances granted by judges allowing more time for children to seek counsel.
Family immigration centers that have opened in recent months following an influx of young migrants from Central America exhibit the same problems that prompted the Obama administration to end immigrant family detention at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, according to a report conducted by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the Women’s Refugee Commission.
Amid lawsuits and controversy concerning mistreatment of Hutto's detainees, particularly children, the Texas center now only holds adult women. "Every issue that came up with Hutto between 2007 and when it was no longer used for families in 2009 has come up again and again in" recently opened facilities in New Mexico and Texas, Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said on a press call.
The Administration's recent expansion of family detention comes at a tragic and horrific cost. This week, allegations of sexual abuse and assault were revealed inside Immigration and Customs Enforcement's new family detention center. I wish I was surprised, but unfortunately, this isn't the first time we have heard this. Rampant sexual assault inside detention facilities has been documented and reported for more than fourteen years.
"Many of these women and children have claims to protection and asylum here in the United State. To respond by locking them up in centers that are remote, far away from legal services.... It just doesn't make any sense," said Katharina Obser of the Women's Refugee Commission.
Refugee advocates decry the detainment of the immigrants, many of whom they say have strong cases for asylum.
"People seeking protection are being put in conditions we know are damaging," said Michelle Brané, director of the Women's Refugee Commission's migrant rights and justice program.
"We are very concerned to see the continued expansion of family detention, which we know does not work," said Katharina Obser of the human rights group Women's Refugee Commission.
Refugee policy and legal experts...believe President Obama's funding request largely misses the point by emphasizing harsh deterrence and increased security measures rather than providing much-needed funding for humanitarian aid and addressing the root causes of the current influx. Read the article by Candice Bernd, Truthout.
"I think the administration was dealing with it at a minimal scale, putting a Band-Aid on something they should have been thinking about holistically,” said Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women's Refugee Commission. Read the article by David Nakamura, Jerry Markon and Manuel Roig-Franzia in the Washington Post.
A series of recent reports have identified multiple causes [for the humanitarian disaster], including the threat of gang, cartel and domestic violence; official corruption in sending states; criminal impunity; poverty and lack of opportunity; and the strong desire for family unity. Read the article by Donald Kerwin, Executive Director, Center for Migration Studies, on Huffington Post.
Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women's Refugee Commission, says it's like using threats to keep people in a burning house. Read the full article by Steve Chapman in the Washington Examiner.