Democrats in the House of Representatives are increasing their calls for the detention policies of the Obama administration to be eased when it comes to undocumented immigrant families being held in custody at the southern border. The lawmakers, who recently visited the two Texas detention centers, say that the centers have jail-like conditions that place the thousands of women and children in detention under risk of psychological and other health problems.
The representatives want Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to close the facilities down and send the occupants to less restrictive settings to wait for their cases to be heard before a court. “Let me just make clear: our goal is to shut the facilities down,” admits Luis Gutierrez. “These kids, they shouldn’t be in there. … There is damage being caused to these kids that they’re going to have to live with for the rest of their lives.”
Democratic whip Steny Hoyer admitted that the sheer amount of children in detention was “troubling” and said that the facilities should be used as holding stations for no more than a few days before families are released elsewhere.
The South Texas facility currently holds as many as 2,043 undocumented immigrants, with the Karnes center holding a further 461 immigrants and 89 being held in a third center in Berks County, which the representatives did not visit. Johnson has admitted that “substantial changes” need to be made to the centers.