LatinaLista — One of the more disturbing stories that surfaced after the Swift meat plant raids was how too many children were left without a parent and/or farmed out to friends and families with no immediate word on how they will be reconnected with their mami and papi.
But if news filtering out of one of the newly designated immigrant detention centers for families is any indication, no undocumented parent is going to open their mouth and claim their children if the whole family is going to be subjected to what is becoming known as the first known concentration camp on American soil in the 21st Century.
The T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas (on the outskirts of Austin, Texas) is a private detention facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America. It and a smaller center in Pennsylvania are the only two facilities in the country that are authorized to hold non-Mexican immigrant families and children on noncriminal charges.
Hutto family detention facility in Taylor, Texas
(Photo: Jay Johnson-Castro)
What does this mean?
It means that at the Taylor facility of the 400 people "held" there, 200 are children. And all are families that can be held there for whatever length of time without due process conducted in a timely manner.
To top it off, as long as the men, women and children are held there, the facility's operator draws a daily profit - per person.
The children range in age from infants on up.
According to the lawyers who have visited their clients in the facility, the children receive one hour of education, English instruction, a day and one half hour of indoor recreation.
Jeans and t-shirts have been replaced with jail uniforms; children are issued uniforms as soon as they can fit into them Â— and everyone must wear name tags, even the babies.
Lawyers are reporting that thefamiliess are receiving substandard medical care and becoming ill from the food being served them. Children are losing weight and people are complaining of migraine-type headaches.
Those clients who are asylum seekers, say the lawyers, are continually suffering trauma on top of the trauma they've already undergone in their home countries - all without receiving any kind of pyschological treatment.
Originally, the detention facilities were touted by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as a way to keep families together while waiting for their cases to come up for court review.
Homeland Securitysecretaryy Chertoff
Well, they are accomplishing that goal - to the exclusion of being allowed any outside contact with the rest of the world, aside from those who have lawyers.
The plight of these families caught in a government-sanctioned Hell is slowly spreading (Texas Civil Rights Review, Austin's American Statesman Editorial,American Statesman article) but with Christmas less than a week away these families truly need a miracle to let them know that the outside world knows that they are there Â— not to mention, the children who need to know that Santa or Los Tres Reyes, or the other Holiday entities observed by those who are not Mexican or Latin American, will know where to find them.
Texans for Families Call Attention to Hutto Family Detention Center
The detention for a prolonged period of any child, regardless of whether or not they are with family members, is beneath what the United States used to stand for.
As of late, the activities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the direction of Homeland Security, has had too many people - on both sides of the immigration debate - shaking their heads as to what our government is capable of subjecting the children of these immigrants to.
We have felt helpless and too many times my Inbox is filled with emails of "What can I do?" or "Where do we go from here?"
Concerned citizens, led by human rights proponent Jay Johnson-Castro (center), walk in protest 35 miles from Texas state capitol in Austin to Taylor,Texas, site of the Hutto Residential facility.
There are few issues that demand immediate action, and when children are concerned, it most always warrants as one of those issues.
For children to be held longer than three days, receive but one hour of instruction and only a half hour of recreational play, to be made to feel like criminals by wearing jail jumpsuits and name tags and not have any contact with anyone outside of the facility is a serious violation of the public trust we have in our government, and how we value children in this country.
What can be done?
As cliche as it sounds, it's time to contact our government officials:
Yet, the secret of doing something, that the blogosphere discovered long ago, is that you don't stop with one email, one posting or one phone call.
The issue must be talked about and circulated until there is action, positive change and the day when all these families can see that they are not alone.