A coalition of national organizations, ranging from Latino-based, faith-based and law-based groups, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama to end immigrant-family detention.

"In light of recent developments and ongoing negotiations in litigation on the detention of immigrant families, we, the undersigned 188 immigrants' rights, faith-based, civil rights, human rights, survivors' rights, and criminal justice reform organizations, international educators, and legal service providers, urge your administration to end the practice of family detention," starts the letter, signed by organizations including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), American Immigration Lawyers Association, Center for Popular Democracy, Detention Watch Network, DREAM Action Coalition, National Council of La Raza and We Belong Together.

The letter acknowledges the family detention centers built in the last year in Berks County, Penn., and Dilley and Karnes counties in Texas. The organizations also recognized that the detained families are largely seeking protection in the U.S., but such centers have had "traumatic impact" on families, notably children. The traumatic impacts may include an individual or families' experience while in Central America.

"These mental health effects are compounded where families have suffered detention that is prolonged and indefinite in nature," the letter continued. "A growing number of members of Congress have voiced their opposition to the detention of families, and a steady stream of news articles and human rights reports illustrate that families cannot be detained humanely."

The letter reference the lawsuit and human rights reports at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Texas, which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security closed in 2009 following inquiries of the facility's procedures. Lawsuits regarding other immigrant detention facilities' policies have also been filed and could result in the centers shutdown.

"DHS has broad authority to release from detention vulnerable populations who do not pose a flight or public safety risk either on recognizance or, where necessary, with additional measures such as alternatives to detention," wrote the 188 organizations. "These should include case management services to ensure that families are informed of their legal rights and obligations and receive appropriate referrals to social and legal services."

The organizations agreed that all immigrant families must receive full due process. The letter to Obama called for all families to have their right to full hearings before an immigration court judge -- as outlined in section 240 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Calls for an "alternative to detention," or ATD, instead of detention was recommended. The national, state and local organizations in the letter noted families apprehended at the border "generally" have relations or community relations in the U.S. and could be released while awaiting deportation hearings.

"In fact, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently issued a Request for Proposals specifically for case management ATD programs appropriate for families. As detailed in your FY 2016 budget request, current ATD programs save taxpayer dollars, costing approximately $5 per day compared to $343 per day for a family detention bed. Current ATDs have high compliance rates, with 99 percent appearance at immigration court hearings and 84 percent compliance with removal orders."

Local-and-state-based organizations signing on the letter include the Central American Resource Center, Coalition of Latino Leaders, Families for Freedom, New York Immigration Coalition and Workers Defense Project.

To read the letter to President Obama and the list of organizations signed, click here.


For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.