Detention and Asylum
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Immigration Detention Policies Are Excellent First Step

Some families with young children were detained in these facilities for up to two years.

"U.S. to Reform Policy on Detention for Immigrants" (The New York Times, August 5)

The Women’s Refugee Commission is thrilled to learn that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will stop detaining families at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas as part of newly emerging plans for significant changes to U.S. immigration detention policy.

arrow_900 Read more in our press release.
arrow_900 Read our article in the Huffington Post.
arrow_900 Read the ICE Fact Sheet on the new reforms.

On a daily basis, the U.S. government detains men, women and children apprehended as family units in inappropriate detention facilities. The detention of families began in 2001 with the opening of Berks Family Shelter Care Facility, but it expanded dramatically in 2006 with the opening of the new T. Don Hutto Residential Center (a former medium security prison).

The increase in family detention represents a major shift in the U.S. government’s treatment of families in immigration proceedings, which is not in line with Congress’ direction that ICE stop its former practice of separating families and either place them in alternative programs or detain them together in non-penal, homelike settings. Instead, ICE chose to develop a penal detention model that is fundamentally anti-family and un-American.

familydetenIn February 2007, the Women's Refugee Commission and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service released a landmark report on family detention. The Women's Refugee Commission was the first NGO to visit the T. Don Hutto Residential Center and speak with detained families and former detainees.

arrow_900 Read Locking Up Family Values: The Detention of Immigrant Families.

Since there is no precedent for family detention in the U.S., there are no licensing requirements for family detention facilities. Standards for family detention are based almost entirely on an adult criminal model. Despite improvements in conditions made at the T. Don Hutto facility since a Settlement Agreement was reached, the current model of family detention is not acceptable for addressing the reality of the presence of families in our immigration system. While there is precedent in the adult detention system for the use of alternatives to detention and other pre-hearing release systems, ICE has unfortunately made no effort to expand these programs to include families.

arrow_900 The work of our detention and asylum program is featured in the award-winning documentary The Least of These. The film, which features our detention and asylum program director Michelle Brané, spotlights the efforts to stop the detention of immigrant families at the T. Don Hutto detention center, a former prison near Austin, Texas.

arrow_900 Read more about our involvement.

Take Action! Ask Congress to Ensure Humane Conditions of Immigration Detention
Support Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard's (CA-34) "Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act" (H.R. 1215)


  • Discontinue the detention of families in penal institutions.
  • Close Hutto, and begin transition to non-penal, homelike facilities for families not eligible for release on parole or bond or to alternative programs. Institutionalize a preference for release for all families who can establish identity and community ties and who do not pose a security risk.
    • Release families as soon as possible, codify parole criteria, make bonds accessible and grant temporary work authorization to those eligible.
    • Shift authority to parole asylum seekers to an objective body.
  • Implement alternatives to detention for families not eligible for parole or release.
  • Families not eligible for parole or release into the community or alternative programs should be housed in appropriate non-penal, homelike facilities.
    • Transfer responsibility for custody of families in immigration proceedings to ORR and develop and codify appropriate family detention standards.
    • Facilities used for the detention of families should be licensed by appropriate regulatory bodies and subject to oversight/inspection by an independent body.
  • Children released from ORR custody should not be re-detained with their parents upon family reunification.
  • Enhanced public-private partnerships should be employed to provide Legal Orientation Programs, including legal information and pro bono legal access, for all detained families, including those in expedited removal proceedings.
    • Assure access to legal orientation no later than one week after detention. Children whose families are in immigration proceedings should be treated as individuals who may be eligible for separate forms of relief.

Press Releases on Family Detention

Read more in our press room.

Selected Media Coverage on Family Detention

Read more in our press room.