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Settlement Reached on Behalf of Detained Immigrant Children Underscores the Flaw in U.S. Immigration Law

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.

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  • Horace
    September 2, 2007 at 11:11 am

    How does this reveal a flaw in our immigration law? Your byline is just hyperbole meant to inflame emotions. This has nothing to do with law, but only with discretionary procedures. If Congress would allocate sufficient resources for the purpose of serving due process, the agencies resposible for deporting these people could carry out the law in a less traumatic way. No change in law was made to improve conditions at Hutto.

  • Frank
    September 2, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Does that mean if 500 million of the world’s poor want to come here to work and live, there would be a flaw in our immigration laws if we didn’t let them do that? I can’t believe the stupidity on the other side of the issue.
    No, if 12 million foreign people are in violation of our laws, that doesn’t necessarily mean that our laws are flawed. It could mean that since most of these people are from the same culture that there could be a flaw in their culture and honesty.

  • Angi
    September 4, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Obviously the two commentors have forgotten we are AMERICA home of the melting pot?!
    Being of mixed blood with ancestors who just arrived from Ireland three generations ago and Mexicans who originated on these lands has its insight. First, explain to me why Europeans/Italians/Irish/etc did not have to go through the BS people have to endure now that their skin is darker? Latinos arrive here wanting to work, wanting to feed their children and if alternatives were offered they would choose to be legal. But how about we reverse the tables…America is poorer than dirt and in order to feed our children we have to leave our families, risk death crossing the border, and rely on individuals who are all about the money, would you do it to feed your family? Or would you let your children starve to death?
    Next point, have either of you bothered to read the proposed law or you just felt like spouting off? It requires the head of household to go back to the originating country to get a VISA and he must stay there three years. Hello, nothing like an American family, broken before you get started!
    Also, do you realize how many Americans go into Central America to live? They are not hassled like Americans hassle Latinos for moving to North America. Like it or not we are all Americans, whether it is from the South or North, isn’t time we act like it?

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