In response to unaccompanied children fleeing Central America in search of safety last summer, the Obama administration's strategy included detaining mothers and children: an increase of almost 4,000 percent. A court ruling is the latest blow to the controversial practice of detaining families seeking asylum. Now it’s up to the Obama administration to do the right thing.
10 groups sued the government, protesting that while detained by DHS, 10 mothers and their children received substandard medical care and suffered severely.
"Jessica, a 29-year-old immigrant and mother of two from Honduras was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Clinic staff told her that the doctors would only see her children and not her."
Nearing the 15th anniversary of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, the world is reflecting on its track record. As the WRC's Marcy Hersh notes, "the key challenges in protecting women and children in emergencies, and ensuring women are able to participate in these processes, is not related to knowing what needs to happen. We need a commitment to do it."
After a detained 5-year-old girl became very ill, it took weeks to see a doctor--and she was still prevented from getting medications at the detention center. Stories like this are common, and are part of why a federal judge recently ruled that family detention is unethical and unconstitiutional.
U.S. family detention, nearly ended in 2009 and revived in 2014, "has been marked by failure after failure." Last week, a judge ruled that the practice still violates the government's own rules about how to treat children humanely.
"The vast majority unaccompanied minors are not getting a chance to show they fear persecution if they’re returned to their home countries"--a legal requirement under U.S. and international law.
The part that’s illegal is that the government has not been adequately screening these children according to the law, according to Jennifer Podkul, senior program officer for the Migrant Rights and Justice Program.
As ICE detains more pregnant women, costs are accruing for the women, their unborn children, and for taxpayers. “There’s a whole spectrum of alternatives to detention for individuals like this,” says Katharina Obser of the WRC.
DHS acknowledges the flaws in family detention but still envisions a system where women and children are incarcerated.
Children become further traumatized in family detention centers, as their parents are unable to give them a sense of safety.
"For an initiative that used such lofty language, I struggle to see what the initiative has tangibly created, other than recognition, acknowledgement and sympathy for the issue." Marcy Hersh, senior advocacy officer, comments on the lack of progress a year after a global summit to end sexual violence in conflicts.
For refugee women, cooking dinner can be an all-day affair – and a dangerous one. Almost 10 years ago, the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) put the issue of Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) on the humanitarian agenda. Today, the WRC was recognized for its ground-breaking work with a Green Star Award.
Enhanced border security is no way to treat refugees. In fact, it’s contrary to American values.
Women and children fleeing violence have a legal right to apply for asylum in the United States, and should not be detained. Furthermore, the administration’s claim that its only other option is to separate children, including babies, from their mothers is cowardly and immoral.
The WRC recently made a trip to to the new detention facilities in Dilley, Texas, and spoke with dozens of migrant families there. More than ever, it was clear that family detention is an inhumane, and financially wasteful policy.
Far more families are being detained after seeking safety in the U.S., and they're being held for far longer: 6 months, a year, or more. The effects on their well-being are tragic, especially for children. Advocates, including the WRC, are challenging the legality of this extended detention.
With many Syrian men are separated, fighting or killed, women become leaders and protectors. “In every conflict situation, there is a disruption of gender roles,” says Dale Buscher of the WRC, “Displacement creates new opportunities for a more gender-equitable society.”
The economic and social implications of gender inequality in nationality laws can prove dire for women and their children.
As migration enforcement tightens, vulnerable migrant children are being driven further from safe routes and into the cars of kidnappers.