Texas Wants To Label Horrific Family Detention Centers As “Child Care” Centers

Child welfare and immigrant rights activists are rallying against a proposal to label family detention centers in Texas as “child care facilities.”

The family detention centers themselves, jail-like facilities which house mothers and children while they await hearings in immigration court, have been the source of controversy for quite some time. Many immigration lawyers have come forward to talk of the horrendous conditions at these facilities, likening them to internment camps and reporting scenes of children vomiting, not eating, and being regularly yelled at. Last May, 136 House Democrats signed a letter to the Obama administration asking for an end to the practice.

But, naturally, Texas does not want to end this practice. So, instead of ending it, or even making some kind of reasonable effort towards improving conditions, they want to pass a bill which will license their two family detention centers as “child care facilities” in hopes that this will prevent them from being shut down. Because it would be really sad for them if they couldn’t jail children anymore.

Via Think Progress:

“Calling them ‘child-care facilities’ makes people forget the main thing about detention: you’re not allowed to leave,” Nicholas Marritz, a pro bono attorney with Legal Aid Justice Center based in Virginia, told ThinkProgress. “And as a federal judge ruled last year, no matter how rosy a picture the government may paint of these facilities, restraining children in a place that they’re not allowed to leave can cause them ‘long-lasting psychological, developmental, and physical harm.’ That doesn’t sound like ‘child care’ to me.”

Sure doesn’t! In fact, it sounds horrible! And these families are often there for a year or more while awaiting their time in immigration court!

In most cases, judges have ruled against these facilities. Last year, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee found that they violated the Flores agreement–which requires immigrant children to either be released as soon as possible to a legal guardian or family member, or to be held in the least restrictive conditions possible–and demanded the children be released. Judge Gee noted that the children were being held in “widespread deplorable conditions” that were not “safe or sanitary.”

Labeling these family detention centers as “child care centers” is simply a way of skirting the law, and getting to keep these detention centers open in spite of the ways they violate the law. No matter how much you may dislike immigration, I think we should all agree that children–regardless of their immigration status–should not be in prison.