Asylum Seekers Detained

May 20, 2015
Fort Worth Weekly

"...The newest ICE facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center, near Dilley, will house 2,400 mothers and children when completed. It will be run by Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison operator in the United States. The CCA will receive $276 per day per person from the federal government to run Dilley, a staggering $241 million per year. The CCA ran the T. Don Hutto facility when ICE was sued over conditions there.

While exact figures were not available for the smaller, GEO Group-run Karnes County Residential Facility, which houses 592 women and children, the cost per day per bed is probably similar to what CCA is getting for Dilley.

'I visited the Karnes facility last September,' said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization working to end the private prison industry. 'And, yes, there are paintings on the walls, and there’s a small soccer field for the kids, but the reality is that prolonged detention is always detrimental to kids and their moms. And at Karnes, some of the women have been held for as long as nine months.'

Libal noted that those families seeking refugee status are not generally considered flight risks and are normally 'given a notice to appear at a detention court and told to check in with an ICE worker and let go,' frequently to sponsors or family members already living in the United States. When they appear for their hearing, the mothers are interviewed about why they are seeking asylum. If they pass that 'credible fear' interview, their request for asylum moves on through the system. If they do not pass the interview, they are scheduled for deportation...

...Christina [sic] Parker, the immigrations program director for Grassroots Leadership, helped organize a protest at Dilley on May 2, which was attended by more than 600 people. 'When you look at the Dilley facility, it doesn’t look like a prison,' she said. 'There are rows of little trailers set up, sort of like a camp. But there are still armed guards, and the kids are still locked up. And they shouldn’t be.'

Parker pointed to a decision in a lawsuit brought against the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the precursor to ICE, in 1987 by the ACLU over the detention of illegal immigrant children. The 1997 determination, known as the Flores Settlement Agreement, required that juveniles 'be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their age and special needs, generally, in a non-secure facility licensed to care for dependent, as opposed to delinquent, minors.'

Parker said that the suit had been revived in light of the recent expansion of family detention. 'There’s a decision expected in a week,' she said. 'The law says children cannot be held in secure, prison-like facilities. They must be held in licensed child-care facilities.'"