Immigration Detention Center in Texas: House Democrats To Visit Dilley, Karnes Immigrant Detention Centers
Eight Democratic congressional lawmakers will enter two private family detention centers in Texas to speak with detained mothers and children awaiting resolutions of their asylum claims.
The Democratic lawmakers -- Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas and California's Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard -- are scheduled to visit the Karnes and Dilley detention facilities, which is contracted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
During a press conference on Thursday morning, Castro, who noted the facilities are each approximately an hour away from his San Antonio district, said they want to make sure the detention centers are safe, human and consistent with American principles and values. He acknowledged alternative-housing programs should be in place for the detainees and hopes the Obama administration adheres to those calls.
"Many are here to seek asylum and it is not illegal to seek asylum," said Roybal-Allard, adding that their trip to Texas is going to help the lawmakers see for themselves the conditions under which the mothers and children are detained and give them an opportunity about the conditions the [detainees] received. Royal-Allard said she looks to speaking personally to detainees about the impacts immigrant detention and enable her and her fellow representatives to be more effective in discussing reforms.
"It seems to me that when you think of who these people are ... they seek freedom and safety," said Lofgren, noting some have been detained for more than a year. Lofgren said she hopes the detainees have their legal right in immigration court, who ought to be treated with respect as other asylum seekers across the U.S.
During a House floor speech on Wednesday, Gutierrez also spoke about the upcoming trip. He said, "We shouldn't be holding vulnerable women and children in detention. We have mothers and small children in jail-like facilities with uncertain futures, limited access to legal counsel and this has been going on for some time -- almost a year for some of them."
Gutierrez noted $343 is spent per detainee, per day -- or $125,000 per detainee, per year, while alternatives to detention cost $5.50 per person, per day, or approximately $2,000 per year.
The visit to Dilley and Karnes comes after 136 congressional Democrats wrote a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to end family detention. The House Democrats acknowledged that detention, even for a "brief period of time," would still have detrimental effects to mothers and children. They are also concerned with the detainment of immigrants with serious medical needs. According to the letter, detained immigrants have included a child with brain cancer, a mother with congenital heart disorder and a child who had not eaten solid foods for two months.
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