Last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dramatically ramped up the practice of detaining mothers and children in family detention centers in response to the surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States from endemic violence, murder and rape. DHS claims the practice is necessary as a deterrent to other migrants, but the agency has been under pressure by advocates and legislators to end family detention and at the very least, improve conditions many consider inhumane.
Earlier this month, DHS announced a series of measures to improve conditions at family detention facilities. There will be a new advisory committee, a senior Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) official has been designated the responsibility of coordinating and reviewing family residential facility policies, ICE and DHS will meet with stakeholders to listen and discuss concerns, and a new review process will be implemented for any families detained beyond 90 days.
This week, 136 members of the House of Representatives issued a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson urging that the Administration end the inhumane practice of detaining mothers and children seeking refuge in the United States. The letter, spearheaded by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Luis Guitérrez (D-IL), characterizes the practice as detrimental to mothers and children and is not reflective of our nation’s values. It also calls particular attention to reports of inadequate medical care for detainees, including mothers and children traumatized in their countries of origin and en route to the United States. The Senate is said to be working on a similar letter.