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Eight House Democrats To Visit Family Detention Facilities In Texas Next Week

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In a press conference yesterday, eight House Democrats announced plans to visit two detention centers in Texas early next week.

The House members, including Whip Steny Hoyer, Rep. Joaquin Castro, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, will tour facilities housing women and their children in Karnes City and Dilley.

“We cannot – we must not – ignore these reports that young people are being held in prison-like conditions – these are not criminals – while their parents await legal proceedings,” said Whip Hoyer during the press conference.

“I am looking forward to being with my colleagues here in San Antonio at these centers to see firsthand whether America is living out its values and treating children and others as we would want our own children [to be treated].”

In late May, 136 House Democrats sent a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson asking him to end the administration’s harmful family detention policy, with 33 Senate Democrats following suit the next month.

“We cannot hear reports of serious harm to children in custody and do nothing about it,” the House letter stated.

“Detaining mothers and children in jail-like settings is not the answer. We have an opportunity to do the right thing and are confident that DHS has the capacity to honor our Nation’s longstanding commitment both to the protection and well-being of refugee families and to law enforcement and public safety.”

Advocates have condemned detaining mothers and their children — many of whom are fleeing violence and exploding murder rates in Central American nations — and argue families should instead be afforded more humane alternatives to detention.

Earlier this month, one immigrant mother detained in Karnes City attempted suicide after her asylum claim was denied. In a note written in Spanish, the 19-year-old described the “pain of being locked up and treated worse than an animal.”

The Karnes facility is one of the two centers House members will tour next week.

Numerous organizations have noted the severe psychological effects detainment has on children, particularly toddlers. With some mothers detained for as long as a year, one news organization estimated some toddlers have spent nearly half of their lives in detention.

“As the father to three daughters, as the grandfather of three, and as the great-grandfather of three great-grandchildren, I am very concerned of how we as a country treat the children and grandchildren of others,” Hoyer said.

“America needs to treat them as well as we would want our own children treated.”