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Family Separations Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg at Texas Detention Centers, a New Report Says


Human Rights First's report was based on interviews with 147 detainees at border facilities such as this one. - VIA HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST
  • Via Human Rights First
  • Human Rights First's report was based on interviews with 147 detainees at border facilities such as this one.
The separation of undocumented children from their parents is one of many outrages occurring at Texas detention facilities under the Trump Administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy, according to a new study.

In addition to the family separations now seizing headlines, immigrants at detention sites face sexual assault, harassment, lack of legal representation and inadequate medical and mental health care, according Human Rights First, which interviewed 147 detainees plus attorneys, non-profit legal assistance providers, public defenders and ICE representatives for its study. The group looked at conditions in Texas facilities including those used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Pearsall (just south of San Antonio), Houston, Conroe, Taylor, El Paso, Laredo and Sierra Blanca.

“The Trump Administration's campaign to detain vulnerable people desperately seeking protection in the United States is part of a broader attack on the asylum and refugee systems, designed to punish people fleeing for their lives,” said Eleni Bakst, the report's primary author.

Human Rights First found that people in those facilities face prolonged detentions, some longer than a year, which cut off access to the due process needed to pursue legal immigration status.

"In many Texas facilities, ICE has essentially stopped granting parole to asylum seekers, with a few exceptions, leading to unnecessary, lengthy and prolonged detention," Bakst said. "Many Texas facilities used for immigration detention are actually criminal jails or have conditions identical to those in prisons. These difficulties, coupled with substandard medical and mental health care, exacerbate the suffering of traumatized individuals.”

The report recommends the federal government fix the problem by:
  • Ending punitive detention for immigrants and focusing on less costly and more humane alternative-detention methods
  • Supporting access to legal representation for immigrants
  • Strengthening standards and oversight of detention facilities
  • Making sure detainees have adequate health care
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