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House Democrats, Accompanied By Formerly-Detained Mom, Call For End To Family Detention

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This morning, nearly a dozen members of Congress, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, and Rep. Lucille Royball-Allard, held a press conference calling for the Department of Homeland Security to end its controversial family detention program.

The House Democrats were joined by Dree Collopy, a pro bono attorney who has met with detained families, and Maria Rosa Lopez, a Honduran refugee who spent six months in detention with her son.

From the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

The family detention program, administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has come under increasing criticism following the recent and rapid increase in detention – particularly for the purpose of detaining vulnerable asylum seekers, families and children. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the New York Times Editorial Board, and members of Congress have called on the Administration to end its policy of incarcerating children and women, and instead discharge detainees on supervised or monitored release pending the disposition of their trial.

Momentum to end the program has been surging over the last few months, with 2016 Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton calling for asylum and detention reform, as well as prioritized legal representation for vulnerable populations, including children.

At this morning’s press conference, Lopez described her family’s horrendous ordeal during their months in detention, including the psychological trauma inflicted upon her son and other children in the facility.

Rep. Judy Chu, who has personally visited many of these detained mothers and their children, added “I can say with certainty: women and children do not belong in these facilities.”

“Let’s be clear: There is no way to detain families humanely. Family detention cannot be fixed. It must be ended.”

From The Hill:

Though the DHS has made improvements at these facilities in access to water, healthcare and time outside for children to play, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) said none of these can make the system right.

“It’s wrong, it’s a waste of money, it’s unnecessary, it’s inhumane and it’s un-American,” he said. “We must change it.”

Advocates argue that women and children released from detention facilities to either relatives or other alternatives have a greater chance of finding legal representation and time to prepare their cases to present before a judge (an infographic from Women’s Refugee Commission is available here).

The full video of House Democrats calling for an end to family detention, as well as a Storify of tweets from members of Congress and advocates, are available for viewing below.