With pressure from both advocates and members of Congress mounting over the past several weeks, immigration officials announced yesterday plans to release at least six immigrant mothers from a Texas detention facility.
“The women now eligible for bond had previous requests for release denied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and had been issued deportation orders,” their attorneys told the LA Times.
The announcement to release the mothers from the facility comes just one day after immigration and family advocates — including We Belong Together, MomsRising, and UltraViolet — held a digital action calling on DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to end the administration’s family detention policy.
In late May, 136 House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, signed a letter to Secretary Johnson asking for an end to the harmful policy, with 33 Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Harry Reid, following suit in early June.
The LA Times also notes a Congressional delegation is due to visit the Karnes City detention facility, where mothers held hunger strikes in both March and April to protest “poor conditions and mistreatment by officials.”
However, Jonathan Ryan, executive director of a group coordinating legal assistance for detained mothers and their children, called the announcement to release some mothers from detention “purely political.”
“If this was a genuine policy change, we would be seeing families from the Berks and Dilley [detention] centers also being released,” Ryan said.
“ICE has shown that it is only concerned about its image. They do not care about the well-being of families, or about respecting their due-process rights.”
The number of women on schedule to be released from Karnes pales in comparison to the overall population of the three detention facilities. According to ICE spokesperson Gillian Christensen, 88 adults and children are being held at the Berks facility, 495 are being held at the Karnes City facility, and 1,591 at the Karnes City facility.
Advocates have now taken legal actions to win more humane alternatives for women and their children:
The American Civil Liberties Union is also suing the Obama administration to end family detention. Earlier this year a federal judge in Washington ruled in its favor and ordered the administration to stop detaining most women and children who were caught crossing the border illegally whether or not they had applied for asylum in the U.S.
In response, ICE officials announced last month that they would improve family detention conditions and create a review process for those detained for more than three months. They are also appointing an in-house official to review conditions at the three family detention centers and a panel of experts to advise Johnson about family detention.
Christensen said the latest releases are part of that review process.