Conditions at a former Texas prison being used to detain immigrant families are “anti-family and un-American,” and violate detention standards and congressional guidelines, say two national advocacy organizations quoted by the Houston Chronicle. The report by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service urges a shutdown of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, 30 miles northeast of Austin.
Human rights advocates have complained for months that a 512-bed former prison is no place for women and children, many of whom are seeking asylum. The groups say that “the penal model of family detention leads to babies in uniforms with name tags, cribs inside prison cells, parents losing the ability to discipline their children and families unable to live as a normal family unit.” The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency calls the detention a humane alternative to separating families from countries other than Mexico while they seek asylum or fight deportation. The former “catch and release” policy was ended, largely because immigrants weren’t showing up for court hearings .In response, ICE said it has offered to work with advocacy organizations to develop standards for families.