US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released around 200 immigrants from its family detention centers, with this decision commended by civil rights advocates and lawmakers alike. The immigrants were from Central America, with the great majority being women and children.
Democratic representatives Zoe Lofgren and Lucille Roybal-Allard from California, and Luis Gutierrez from Illinois, have released a statement commending the agency for its decision but noting that there are still a number of unresolved issues. “ICE recently announced that it was releasing families from detention on bond, ankle bracelets, or orders of supervision if they have passed credible and reasonable fear interviews,” the statement reads. “However, we remain strongly convinced that no family – regardless of status – should be housed in jail-like facilities for any length of time.” The statement goes on to say that the current form of family detention needs to be unequivocally brought to an end.
The three were among 136 Democrats in the House of Representatives who wrote to Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, demanding reforms and for the family detention centers to be closed down. The Obama administration appears to be responding to the political pressure, says Detention Watch Network co-director Silky Shah.
“By the government’s own measure, the vast majority of detained women and children should be treated as refugees and immediately released,” Shah says, adding that the agency has simply swapped one blanket decision for another and should concentrate on programs of community support that do not leave immigrant families traumatized.