The plan is being decried by advocacy groups, who point to the fraught history of a past Texas family immigration lockup, the T. Don Hutto detention center, northeast of Austin. The ACLU and University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic sued in 2007 over incarcerating families there, alleging inhumane conditions.
Authorities in 2009 removed all families and sent them to the Pennsylvania facility, and Hutto now only houses women.
“The lesson from Hutto is that detention is inappropriate for kids and their families and I think that viewpoint has already been proven,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that opposes the use of for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers.
Libal also expressed concern about locating the new immigration center in isolated Dilley, on Interstate 35 about 85 miles north of the border city of Laredo.
“When you put detention centers in remote areas, far away from legal services or the eyes of community members or proper oversight, it makes it more likely that bad things are going to happen,” Libal said.