New York, NY
First-Ever Report on Family Detention Slated for February 22 Release
The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) will release a first-of-its kind study on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) new family detention policy and practice on February 22, 2006 in Washington, DC.
The Women's Commission and LIRS in December visited two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities that house families in immigration proceedings, the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, TX, and the Berks Family Shelter Care Facility in Leesport, PA. Researchers found extremely poor conditions in the Hutto facility and less than ideal conditions at Berks. Full details and specific recommendations will be available in the upcoming report. Both organizations were denied access to a less restrictive shelter in San Diego, Casa San Juan.
"At Hutto we found prison-like conditions imposed on families with no criminal background, including asylum seekers," said Michelle Brané, co-author of the groundbreaking report. "Conditions at Berks were less punitive, but many improvements must be made to better meet the basic needs of families, particularly children."
LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh concluded, "LIRS believes that in the rare cases where people are detained, they should be in the least restrictive setting for the least amount of time possible. We are concerned that Hutto will become a model for more family detention centers as the use of detention increases. We are advocating for alternatives to family detention and this report will include our recommendations."
ICE has recently asked the Women's Commission to discuss with other non-governmental organizations the creation of national standards for family detention. No such standards currently exist. The first meeting is scheduled to take place in late February.
The full family detention report will be released at a press conference on Thursday, February 22, 2007 at 9:30 a.m. in the Murrow Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045.