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Immigration Reform News 2015: Attention Shifts to Obama as Immigrant Family Detention Shutdown Calls Increase

Monday, 25 May 2015

Following the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' (CHC) calls for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end the immigrant family detention program, national organizations have focused the concerns toward the White House.

Detention Watch Network (DWN), a national coalition of organizations and individuals working against injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system, blamed the White House for the continued practice of family detention.

DWN Co-Director Silky Shah issued a statement urging President Barack Obama and the administration to "immediately" end all family detentions facilities and shutdown the "punitive practice once and for all."

"Locking up women and children endangers their mental and physical health," Shah said. "Women and children detained in these centers are fleeing violence and often have legitimate claims to asylum, yet the White House's policy systematically denies them any refuge and their right to due process.

"It is long past time for the Obama administration to abandon the abusive, and inhumane practice of family detention that erodes family bonds and undermines children's wellbeing."

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a grassroots immigrant-rights organization, applauded the congressional lawmakers' message to close the detention centers. FIRM also wrote a letter to Obama to end family detention practice, and the release of detained families. The coalition acknowledged the pressure to end immigrant detention is "mounting" as two federal courts have questioned the legality of current detention policies.

"The widespread reports of inhumane treatment and prolonged detention of families in these facilities make it painfully obvious that prisons are no place for families," FIRM spokesperson Kica Matos said.

"Locking up innocent mothers and their children is not reflective of our country's values, and it is downright immoral. We urge the President to seize this moment and do what is right for the families seeking refuge in the U.S. Families must come first. Now is the time to end our nation's inhumane history of detaining families once and for all."

As Latin Post reported, CHC members -- including U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Ill., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. -- voiced concerns about the inhumane conditions and harmful impacts of detaining immigrant families, particularly those awaiting to make their case in immigration court.

"We need to shine a spotlight on the harm that detention does to children," said Gutiérrez, who serves as co-chair of the CHC Immigration Task Force. "We have seen studies on the long-term repercussions for children and heard reports of poor treatment in custody. We know how detention reduces the chances of ever talking to a lawyer so that the truth of your circumstances comes out.

"We all need to remember that these are our children and families. They could be our nieces and nephews and neighbors' kids and we should not be in the business of jailing children."

Dree Collopy, a pro bono attorney and partner at Benach Ragland LLP., shared her encounters with detained immigrant women and children. Collopy noted the dehydrated and malnourished children in detention as well as stories of humiliating treatment as sexual abuse.

"While it is true that DHS is working to improve conditions at these centers, the fact remains that they still remain as jail-like settings. This type of detention of women and children is misguided, and the human cost is unacceptable," said Royal-Allard on Thursday.

Source: The Latin Post

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