The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency currently has over 30,000 undocumented immigrants in detention. There are plans to build more detention facilities in the coming year to house the many immigrants the federal government plans to take into custody.
The following is an excerpt from “It’s a Family Affair, a piece that explores the ramifications of US detention policies of undocumented immigrants.
Margarita Huerta made a bad decision.
Some will argue that this mother of four made a bad decision when she decided to live illegally in the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.
Others will say she made a bad decision when she decided on December 14, 2007 to leave her children in her car, after running out of gas alongside a busy North Texas highway while she walked to get help. On her return, she learned that her 5-year-old daughter had tried to follow her and had darted into the heavy traffic, only to be rescued by passing Good Samaritans — who called the police.
Regardless of either decision, or more precisely because of both of them, Margarita found herself placed in the Collin County jail where she was charged with child endangerment and slapped with a criminal charge plus a detaining order by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to clear her for deportation proceedings.
This month, three months after she was first arrested, Margarita will finally be released from the detention center but won’t be seeing her children. Instead, she’ll be loaded on a transport and taken back to Mexico.
Margarita’s treatment and length of detention are not unusual – it’s how the United States treats undocumented immigrants in custody. In fact, Margarita is one of the lucky ones. She only had to be separated from her family for three months and she was only an hour away from where they lived. Too many in her shoes are not as fortunate.
In fact, the automatic detention and prolonged stays behind bars for undocumented immigrants, especially women, is a practice that makes no sense — even in the face of accusations that undocumented immigrants are flight risks.
In this high-tech age, there are proven better ways to keep tabs on nonviolent non-criminals than keeping them behind bars separated from their families.
The way the U.S. handles immigrant detentions has triggered attention from the global humanitarian community, the United Nations (U.N.) and immigrant communities and activists throughout the country who all agree there is a better way to treat a population whose only vice is being illegally in the country to work their way out of the poverty they were born into.
Finish reading It’s a Family Affair.