Immigrant and refugee advocates won a victory earlier this week after a Texas judge blocked a detention center from being licensed as a “child care” facility.
Judge Karin Crump’s temporary injunction will prevent the 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, Texas from receiving a child care license until a full hearing in September to determine which agency can license the state’s two detention centers, which are used to detain mothers and children on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
Under a federal contract, private prison companies operate three family detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania to detain Central American moms and kids who are waiting to find out whether they’ll be allowed to stay in the U.S. or whether they’ll be deported back to their home countries. The Corrections Corporation of America operates the facility in Dilley.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that family detention centers holding children must get licenses, or risk having to release the children held there.
But advocates have widely condemned plans to issue child care licenses to detention facilities — which are plagued by accusations of neglect and abuse — saying that represents a “significant departure” from the state agency’s mission of protecting children.
“Family detention camps are prisons; they are not childcare facilities. Slapping a license on the facilities will not change that fact,” Bob Libal, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, which is a plaintiff in the case, said in a press statement.
While the detention center can still hold families until the September hearing, Judge Crump’s order also prohibits officials from housing children with non-related adults in the same room.
Lee notes that Crump’s order cited a sexual abuse allegation regarding an adult reportedly inappropriately touching a child unrelated to her.
Last year, a group of mothers fleeing violence in Central America filed court papers alleging mistreatment — including “psychological and physical harm” — at family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania.
In June of that year, a group of House Democrats penned a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson condemning detention facilities, saying the “strong evidence that such detention is detrimental to mothers and children and is not reflective of our Nation’s values,” and that now “is long past time to end family detention.”