The U.S. has three family detention centers, used to hold migrant children and their mothers as they apply for asylum, and the two largest are in Texas. One is in Dilley, the other in Karnes. They’re both dusty towns between San Antonio and the Mexican border, and together they have about 3,500 beds.
The facilities have been at the center of a legal fight in Texas courts this week. The issue is whether one of these centers could or should be considered a child-care facility. The Obama administration has tried to get Texas to grant its Karnes County Residential Center a child-care license, arguing that the designation would serve in the best interest of immigrant children, who are held there as they’re screened for asylum. But immigration advocates hope to shut down the centers, which they view as prisons––or at the very least, they want the children released. This strange-sounding struggle over a label is about legal semantics, but it’s also about how the U.S. chooses and is allowed to treat migrant children.