Family detention centers blocked

December 5, 2016
The Monitor

An Austin judge blocked the licensing of two family immigrant detention centers in Texas on Friday following a recommendation from a Department of Homeland Security committee to stop detaining families.

Judge Karin Crump of the 250th state District Court invalidated the Texas regulation that allowed for the licensure of the nation’s two largest family detention centers located in Karnes and Dilley.

Jerry Wesevich, an attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid representing the plaintiffs in the case, argued that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is only granted authority to regulate child care facilities and that family jails are not childcare facilities.

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The plaintiffs also said that family detention is harmful to children and that licensing the facilities under lowered standards would only increase the harm suffered by children.

A similar argument was made recently by the DHS Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers. In an October report released a few weeks ago, the committee recommended DHS, “simply avoid detaining families.”

“DHS’s immigration enforcement practices should operationalize the presumption that detention is generally neither appropriate nor necessary for families,” the report states, “And that detention or the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management, are never in the best interest of children.”

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One plaintiff testified that her daughter had been spoken to and touched inappropriately by another unrelated detainee sharing their room at the Karnes center, according to a news release from Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based national organization fighting to end private prisons.

Immigration Attorney Jodi Goodwin testified in court that in addition to the damage to detained children’s physical and mental health, attorney Goodwin also testified that detention itself hindered a family’s ability to successfully present their asylum case in court.

The plaintiffs also argued that licensing the detention centers would result in lengthier stays of these families.