LatinaLista — Yesterday’s deal between the Department of Homeland Security and ACLU and University of Texas Immigration Clinic attorneys representing the children detained at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention facility in Taylor, Texas signals not just a clear message to our government that “they” cannot disregard basic human rights during this immigration enforcement phase in our country’s history, especially when it comes to children, but that U.S. citizens have learned that the only one who will hold our own government accountable — is US.
The settlement reached on behalf of 26 immigrant children and their parents who were being indefinitely held at the T. Don Hutto facility improved conditions for future detained children, since the original 26 children for whom the suit was filed have all been released.
And we know there will be more children facing a portion of their young lives within the walls of the former mid-security prison.
Chertoff has made no secret that more detention space is getting prepared as more and more work site raids, police cooperation in apprehending undocumented immigrants and highway check points are being utilized to catch the undocumented.
Though no one has addressed the fact that facilities like Hutto that were designed to be “family facilities,” meaning that the whole family was supposed to be placed there while waiting deportation, is merely a facade since these facilities house mostly women and children and the men are sent elsewhere, the settlement does underscore some key improvements.
Conditions at Hutto have gradually and significantly improved as a result of the groundbreaking litigation. Children are no longer required to wear prison uniforms and are allowed much more time outdoors. Educational programming has expanded and guards have been instructed not to discipline children by threatening to separate them from their parents.
In addition to making those improvements permanent, the settlement also requires ICE to:
* allow children over the age of 12 to move freely about the facility
* provide a full-time, on-site pediatrician
* eliminate the count system which forces families to stay in their cells 12 hours a day
* install privacy curtains around toilets
* offer field trip opportunities to children
* supply more toys and age- and language-appropriate books
* improve the nutritional value of food
ICE must also allow regular legal orientation presentations by local immigrants’ rights organizations; allow family and friends to visit Hutto detainees seven days a week; and allow children to keep paper and pens in their rooms. ICE’s compliance with each of these reforms, as well as other conditions reforms, will be subject to external oversight to ensure their permanence.
But the fact remains that this country detains whole families, plucking them not from lives of crime but hard-working lives, going to school lives – contributing to their communities kind-of-lives.
It is a wonder that no one in Washington has asked him/herself that if there exists a law that has 12 million in violation of it, could it not mean that that law is flawed?
And it’s not the people who must change, but the law.