Federal authorities are planning to build a new lockup for immigrant families in South Florida following the unexpected influx of immigrant minors across the US border in recent months, according to a federal official yesterday.
Adelina Pruneda, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), says that the proposal is for a new residential center to be set up in Dilley, a town located around 70 miles to the south-west of San Antonio. “Structures on the site may be used temporarily to house up to 680 residents while the new facilities are built,” she noted. Pruneda added that further details are not yet available, including when the lockup will be ready, how many adults and minors are likely to be housed by the 50-acre facility, and how much it will cost.
The capacity of federal authorities to cope with housing people placed in custody on immigration charges has been severely strained by the massive increase in the number of families and unaccompanied immigrant minors crossing the border. A large majority of the immigrants claim to be escaping gang violence back in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, with many seeking asylum.
Advocacy groups are already slamming the plan, with the executive director of anti-detention organization Grassroots Leadership, Bob Libal, saying that “detention is inappropriate for kids and their families.” He added: “When you put detention centers in remote areas, far away from legal services or the eyes of community members or proper oversight, it makes it more likely that bad things are going to happen.”