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Immigration, Family, Children’s Advocates Hold Twitterstorm Calling For DHS To End Family Detention

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Earlier today, immigration, family, and children’s advocates held a “Twitterstorm” calling for DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to end the administration’s harmful family detention policy.

The movement to end family detention has gained considerable steam over the past few months, with over 150 Democrats from both chambers of Congress sending letters to Secretary Johnson also calling for an end to the policy.

2016 Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently called for asylum and detention reform, as has the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Several newspapers, including the New York Times, have published editorials highlighting the need to end the program.

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

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.

“Research shows that detention can be permanently damage children, causing anxiety, depression and even long-term cognitive damage.”

Children aren’t the only detainees suffering through trauma. Just last week, 19-year-old Lilian Yamileth attempted suicide in a Karnes facility, where she and her young child had been detained since last October.

Lilian fled domestic violence in Honduras, but was repeatedly denied asylum once in the United States. Distraught, Lilian left a suicide note in Spanish about the “pain of being locked up and treated worse than an animal.”

The Huffington Post reports that Lilian and her young son were deported back to Honduras yesterday.

DHS has suggested making improvements to facilities, but advocates say conditions are too far gone and instead argue for a complete overhaul, specifically humane alternatives for women and their children.

From We Belong Together, co-organizer of today’s #EndFamilyDetention Twitterstorm:

Thanks to courageous organizing from inside and outside the facilities, momentum is growing to end the unjust immigrant detention system. The New York Times recently described the entire detention system as “breeding cruelty and harm” and suggested that immigrant detention altogether should end. In the weeks to come, there’s an opportunity for that to start with family detention. Right now lawyers for detained mothers have sued the Department of Homeland Security over their family detention program. The two sides have until June 12 to come up with a settlement plan, but the administration has suggested they may try to settle for just improving conditions in the facilities.

“We know that there is no way to improve the practice of locking up refugee mothers and children. Family detention has to end now,” We Belong Together added in an email to supporters.

See tweets from the #EndFamilyDetention Twitterstorm, organized by We Belong Together, MomsRising, and UltraViolet, below.